Children in Illinois have a legal right to receive financial support from both parents, but how are payments determined and what are all of the expenses covered by child support? This article will provide a broad overview of how child support is handled in the state of Illinois. If you need assistance navigating your own child support case, contact a Chicago child support attorney at Ktenas Law. Call our firm today at (312) 756-8652 to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help.
What Guidelines are used to Determine Child Support in Illinois?
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) describes child support in Illinois as being intended “to establish as State policy an adequate standard of support for a child, subject to the ability of parents to pay”. This standard includes meeting the needs and the physical care arrangements of the child. To reach this level, the State of Illinois uses an Income-Shares model to determine the amount of money required from each parent. Using this method means that child support is determined by the level of income of both parents.
The basic child support obligation is calculated through the following:
Using a specific formula to determine each parent's net income each month
Adding both monthly net incomes together to reach the combined monthly income of the parents
Using the parents' combined income and the number of children to select the appropriate amount from the schedule of basic child support obligations
Determining the percentage share each parent has toward the basic child support obligation.
While the child support obligation is calculated as a monetary obligation from the paying parent (the obligor) to the receiving parent (the obligee), it is not payable as taxable income as it is meant to be directly spent on the child or children.
Other considerations can be involved in determining child support payments. A fairly simple example of that is if a parent has overnight care of the minor child or children for at least 146 nights out of a calendar year. Meeting these criteria can be used to modify the amount to be paid as it is presumed that the parent contributes a significant amount to meet the child's needs already.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services website offers worksheets, information on guidelines, and online tools such as a child support calculator for parents to help calculate the percentage of combined net income. Keep in mind that these resources and tools offer broad advice, and often do not account for factors in individual cases such as variable incomes, unique tax situations, and atypical circumstances that can be a cause to deviate from the standard guidelines. If you believe any of these may apply to you, consult a knowledgeable local family law attorney for help in navigating your unique situation or with any questions about child support.
In some cases, the court may choose that it is in the best interest of the child to award child support using methods that differ from the standard guidelines, particularly if it finds that applying these guidelines would result in an inequitable, inappropriate, or unjust outcome. Factors the court will examine in determining whether to deviate from the standard child support guidelines include:
The financial needs and resources of the child
The financial needs and resources of the parents
The standard of living that would have been enjoyed by the child were it not for the dissolution of the civil union or marriage
The educational needs of the child
The physical and emotional condition and needs of the child
After reviewing these additional factors the court may decide to deviate from the standard guidelines of child support payments due to extra medical expenses necessary for preserving life or health, or to extra expenses brought about through a child's developmental, physical, or medical requirements.
However the child support payment amount is determined, it is paid until a minor child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, without extending past the child's birthday in any event. These payments can be modified as long as the party petitioning for change can demonstrate a major change in circumstances (e.g. significant change in income level, or medical bills) that can require an adjustment to child support. The child spending more overnight parenting time with the non-custodial parent or payments for expenses that had not been considered may also be grounds to modify child support payments.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act clearly spells out that the support owed to a child “includes the obligation to provide for the reasonable and necessary physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.” Criteria laid out in child support law generally include expenses for basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.
The court may decide that child support exceeding these basic necessity expenses is necessary, in which case one or both parents may be ordered to contribute to additional expenses for the benefit of the child. Some of these extra categories of child expenses include:
School Expenses and Extracurricular Activity Expenses
Provisions may be made for child support payments to include “reasonable school and extracurricular activities incurred” meant to “enhance the educational, athletic, social, or cultural development of the child.” The court may, therefore, decide that school registration fees or payments for extracurricular expenses should be included in the payment of child support.
This may be determined by extra expenses including school supplies, fees required at the time of school graduation, additional charges from various school programs, or field trips. Payments for the cost of college and additional educational expenses, such as professional training or vocational school after high school, may be dealt with separately through a petition for educational expenses for a non-minor child.
Child Care Expenses
One or both parents may be ordered by the court to contribute to the reasonable child care expenses of the child or children. These include "actual expenses reasonably necessary to enable a parent or non-parent custodian to be employed, to attend educational or vocational training programs to improve employment opportunities, or to search for employment," in addition to "deposits for securing placement in a child care program, the cost of before and after school care, and camps when school is not in session."
Based on this, daycare costs, the cost of care during summer months, or expenses brought on by similar child care services may be included in child support payments and will be allowed to prevent harming the employment potential custodial parent. Any special circumstances that may require additional child care needs must be considered when determining the actual child care expenses.
The amount of child care expenses must be enough to secure reasonable and necessary child care and will be allocated proportionately based on the percentage share of the combined income of each parent. Using all of this information, the court will then determine the child care expense obligations of each parent.
A part of the basic child support financial obligation is meant for standard medical costs including insurance deductibles and copayments. The court may order one or both parents to supply health insurance coverage for the child or children "through currently effective health insurance policies held by the parent or parents, purchase one or more or all heath, dental, or vision insurance policies for the child, or provide for the child's current and future medical needs through some other manner..." as it sees fit.
To meet these criteria the court may order child support obligations to provide access to health insurance either by covering the cost or by adding the child under their own active insurance plan. Any medical expenses not covered by health insurance but considered reasonable health care needs may be required to be covered by either or both parents, including "unreimbursed medical, dental, orthodontic, or vision expenses and any prescription medication for the child not covered under the child's health insurance." These expenses accrued outside the basic health care insurance provided are viewed and accounted for separately, and it lies with the court to decide how the out-of-pocket medical costs will be covered.
Contact Our Firm to Learn More About Illinois Child Support
Ensuring that parents fulfill their child-rearing duties by setting the appropriate amount of child support is a critical step. Guidelines for child support in Illinois help fulfill that goal. You may need assistance understanding how these guidelines work. If you are a parent looking to get advice on child support obligations you may face, contact the legal professionals at Ktenas Law. You can schedule a free consultation with the team at our family law firm in Chicago today by calling (312) 756-8652.