What Happens If Child Support Is Not Paid in Illinois?

Illinois Family Law Attorney

Options When Child Support Isn’t Paid

Child support issues are common; in fact, parents and legal guardians throughout the state and across the country struggle with them every day. In Illinois, both parents have a legal obligation to provide support for their children.

In reality, the costs of raising children are extraordinary. The combination of the daily expenses (including housing, food and clothing) when combined with the additional costs of health insurance, health care, extracurricular activities and education can be difficult to fathom. Some families are simply unaware of how much they spend until they separate and are forced to review their expenses. The bottom line is that these costs are very real; and they do not disappear when relationships come to an end.

In circumstances like this, an agreement must be reached identifying the financial responsibility of each parent. When done correctly, in accordance with the laws of the state, it is legally binding and enforceable.

In these situations, one parent usually makes child support payments to the other. If that parent stops paying, the consequences are severe, both for the non-paying adult and for their children. Failure to pay child support can result in being held in contempt of court, paying fines and even serving jail time. If nonpayment continues, it may even lead to criminal charges. And in the end, the children’s well-being is impacted.

If you find yourself in a situation where your ex stops making child support payments, or if you are the parent who cannot make them, it pays to seek legal assistance.

The compassionate and experienced Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec understand the stresses of divorce. Additionally, we recognize the concerns parents have for the well-being of their children and the importance of child support. We offer a free initial consultation to examine your individual situation and help identify solutions that are best for you and your family.

Understanding Child Support

The definition of child support is quite simple: It is the financial obligation of one parent to care for their children. That said, no two child support agreements are identical. In fact, each is unique and is determined by a number of factors, including each parent’s income and the specific expenses relating to their children.

What is the same in each case is the legal responsibility of the parent to pay the support in full and on time. It stands to reason that without these funds, the other parent would struggle to support their children.

Unfortunately, child support payments can be complicated, and parents don’t always do what they should.

Sometimes the animosity of the separation comes into play, and other times financial hardships impact the situation at hand. The bottom line, though, is that when payments are not made appropriately it is the children who suffer the effects.

What Are Child Support Obligations in Illinois?

It is not surprising that the child support process is not easy. In fact, the opposite is true. Drafting, modifying and enforcing child support agreements is complex . . . and emotional. Working with a skilled child support attorney is important when addressing it. The laws have a history of changing, and your agreement must take into account the most recent versions.

For example, on July 1, 2017, due to Public Act 99-764 that amends the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the method of calculating child support changed. Instead of relying on the net income of the non-custodial parent, the new law created an income-share system. Both parents are now accountable for child support based on how much they financially contributed to the combined household income while married.

To calculate child support, the courts consider the following three factors:

  1. Basic Child Support Obligation: The combined value of child support owed by both parents together. This is then divided proportionally between the parents based on their individual contribution to a combined household net income.
  2. Additional Expenses: Other costs, such as child care and medical costs which are added on top of the basic child support obligation.
  3. Parenting Time: The amount of time the child spends with each parent.

Based on these factors, the courts determine which parent has to pay child support to the other. Working with an experienced legal professional when drafting these agreements is wise. You want your agreement to be created in accordance with laws so it is legally enforceable. While you never want to anticipate problems, especially when it comes to your children’s well-being, they do occur. Having an appropriate child support agreement in place helps to protect both parents and their children.

If you fail to receive the child support due to you, or if you are unable to make your required payments, you should contact a child support lawyer as quickly as possible. Addressing these issues, upfront, is best for you, your ex and your children.

What Happens If Child Support Is Not Paid in Illinois?

Nonpayment of child support is a serious offense. When child support isn’t paid, there is a national Child Support Enforcement program that works in partnership with Illinois and other states to ensure children are financially supported by their parents. The program locates non-custodial parents, establishes paternity and support obligations, and enforces child support orders.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ Division of Child Support Services carries out enforcement through its regional offices. Child support orders are recorded in the DCSS database and payments monitored, so if a parent notifies the DCSS of the other parent’s failure to pay, the DCSS begins collection. This is done automatically if the parent is receiving public assistance.

Many wonder “can you go to jail for not paying child support?” In certain situations, the answer is yes. The information below shares how nonpayment issues can legally be addressed.

What Are the Penalties for Not Paying Child Support in Illinois?

The child support laws in Indiana are designed to protect the best interests of children of separated or divorced parents. Thus, non-compliance is serious.

If your spouse has not paid their child support, you do have options under the law. Individuals who do not pay their child support, as ordered, can face a host of consequences. If you are a parent who is not receiving the support as ordered, a child custody attorney can help you move forward.

There are a broad range of actions and penalties that can be assessed for not paying child support in Illinois.

The longer support is unpaid, the more serious the repercussions.

Consider some of the options available under Illinois law.

  • Withholding income from a parent’s wages, Social Security, unemployment, workers’ compensation, or veterans disability compensation.
  • Wage Garnishment – Employers withhold child support from the parent’s earnings until the past-due balance is paid in full.
  • Bond — If the parent is not subject to income withholding, DCSS may require posting a bond, security or other guarantee of payment.
  • Garnishing state and federal tax refunds.
  • Credit bureau reports.
  • Seizure of bank accounts.
  • Utilizing private collection agencies.
  • Revocation of driver’s license, passports, or professional, occupational or recreational licenses.
  • Criminal Prosecution — If a non-custodial parent refuses to pay court-ordered child support for more than a six-month period or owes more than $5,000, the federal government can prosecute. Penalties may include fines and imprisonment, with the amount increasing with the severity of the non-payment. For example, it is a Class A misdemeanor to fail to pay child support for six months or owe more than $5,000, but it is a Class 4 felony with imprisonment for one to three years to be more than $20,000 past due.

As a parent not receiving support, you are likely desperate to receive the funds in any way possible. But, as a parent who may be struggling to pay, your concerns may lie with the penalties you may face. In both cases, your child support attorney can review your case and explain your options. They also can help to resolve issues quickly and completely, providing the best opportunity for both you and your children.

What You Can Do if You Can’t Pay Your Child Support

Life’s circumstances rarely remain the same. And, unfortunate changes in your financial position can result in your being unable to pay your child support. If this happens, you have options. Simply not making payments and not addressing the issue is both irresponsible and illegal.

A child support lawyer can review your current situation and advise you on the best way to move forward. Two of the options available to you are:

  1. Modifying Your Support Order: If you are having problems making child support payments, you should immediately seek to modify your existing support order in court. You will have to explain why you can’t make your payments and ask to have the support amount lowered. However, you are still responsible for the full amount of back child support.

    Illinois law allows either parent to ask for a modification review of an order for support every three years or when there is a substantial change in circumstances, including an increase or decrease in income of 20%, or changes in expenses, geographical location, or health insurance rates. For the modification review, parents must fill out a Certification of Income and Expenses form (HFS 2782) to verify ability to pay, financial balances, employment status and other information.

  2. Consider Filing for Bankruptcy: If you file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, there is an “automatic stay” that stops all foreclosures, garnishments, bank levies, and creditors from harassing you. However, the automatic stay does not apply to the enforcement of the collection of child support or alimony, so you will continue to be liable for support previously ordered in family court.

    From the date the bankruptcy petition is filed until it is discharged, you may not get behind on any support obligations. If you are already in arrears on the date you file your bankruptcy petition, you may not get further behind, and you must make all regular child support or spousal support payments due until you receive your bankruptcy discharge. If you are already current on support obligations on the date you file, you may not have any arrearages occur until you receive your bankruptcy discharge.

Proactively addressing changes in your life and your inability to pay your current child support is critical. Ignoring the issue does not make it disappear. In fact, it makes things worse as your debt and interest accrue. In life, controlling what you can is important – take the time to do so with your parenting responsibilities.

Wolfe & Stec Is Ready to Go to Work for You

We Provide the Support You Need

Without a doubt, unpaid child support is a serious issue, one that becomes more and more concerning as time goes on. It impacts your children’s well-being, your financial stability, and in the cases where you are the parent who is not paying, your future. Take action sooner, not later.

If you have not received the child support owed to you or are having difficulty meeting your financial child support obligations, the advice and counsel of an experienced child support attorney can help.

Child support laws can be confusing, and their impact considerable. If you are struggling with your child support agreement, you should obtain legal counsel. Questions regarding the calculation of child support and modifying or appealing existing support orders are complicated. You want to be sure the answers you receive are accurate and that your rights (and those of your children) are protected.

The skilled Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. know the laws, the courts and the system and can guide you through the process. We represent and advise clients in all types of child custody matters and have a long history of success.

Contact Us Today

As mentioned, child support issues should be addressed as quickly as possible. Time is a commodity you cannot afford to waste. So, don’t delay. Contact the experienced and compassionate child support professionals at Wolf & Stec For a free initial consultation. During this meeting we can learn more about your specific situation and share how we believe we can best help you.

Reach out to us today online or call 630-305-0222 for a free initial consultation. Our team is ready to go to work on your behalf to help to resolve your child support issues.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]