Understanding the new child support law in Illinois

Divorces and determining child support can be confusing for many parents. A new child support law is on the horizon in Illinois and will certainly lead to more questions about calculations and obligations. While the law does not go into effect until July 2017, it is important for divorced parents to understand how the law will affect them.

Custodial parent income

Current law bases child support awards on the income of the non-custodial parent. The earnings of the custodial parent are not taken into account. The new law, Public Act 99-0764, fundamentally changes this by implementing an income shares model. Thankfully this model exists in several other states so it can be understood.

Total family income

According to the income shares model, the combined income of both parents is factored into child support calculations. The idea is to emulate the expenses of an intact family. Once the separate incomes are combined, they are compared to an average family with comparable income and number of dependents.

Parenting time changes

The new statute adjusts child support obligations based on parenting time. For instance, if a child is with a parent for 147 overnights per year, the parent may be obligated to provide more child support. Taking shared parenting into account is thought to make child support obligations more equitable.

Changes to current obligations

If parents are already divorced and are either paying or receiving child support, the new law only affects them in certain circumstances. The new law includes language that states it will not alter past-ordered support unless there are substantial changes in circumstances.

Increased parenting time or a change in employment may count as substantial changes. Any divorced party that meets the requirements of a substantial change after July 2017 will need to have child support obligations modified.

Exception to the law

Courts must apply these new guidelines with the exception that the guidelines would not be in the best interests of the child. These interests are:

  • Financial needs
  • Standard of living
  • Educational needs
  • Physical and emotional health

Each divorce is unique and may not be required to follow these guidelines depending on the benefits to the child.

Those who have questions about substantial circumstances or modifying current obligations may benefit from speaking to a family law attorney. An attorney can review the case and determine whether modifications are necessary or whether the court would not deem the guidelines necessary. Legal advice and representation may be helpful when changes in the law occur.

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