Child support is one of the most contentious issues for a divorcing couple. Sadly, innocent children get caught in a power struggle between two parents who no longer love each other but desperately love their children.
Dissolving marriages are not the only time child support disputes become heated. Children of parents who never married tragically become trapped between two people who cannot get along. Child support is an area of staunch disagreement.
The Purpose of Child Support in Chicago
Both parents have an obligation to financially support their child. Typically, the parent who does not have physical custody of the children will pay child support to the custodial parent. This support is meant to put food on the table, clothe the children, and shelter them, at a minimum.
Typically, child support is calculated using a specific formula set by the legislature. However, a judge in Chicago could also consider the lifestyle the child may have enjoyed if the parents did not separate, like the cost of vacations, entertainment, transportation expenses, and other expenses, when determining an appropriate child support arrangement.
In addition to child support, a court can order parents to pay a portion of their children’s:
- Educational expenses,
- Extracurricular activities,
- Uninsured medical expenses,
- Health insurance premiums, and
- Child care expenses.
Typically, each parent will pay a portion of these expenses that is proportionate to their income. The court will also take the parties’ overall financial situation into consideration.
How Much Is Child Support in Chicago?
Recently, the state of Illinois sought to address fairness issues in child support payments by amending the child support formula. As of July 1, 2017, Illinois calculates child support payments based on an income share model provided by 750 ILCS 5/505.
The new law changed the way courts calculate child support by changing the child support guidelines to reflect a growing need for fairness and transparency. Before the legislature revised the law, courts based their child support orders only on the non-custodial parent’s income. Illinois law now considers the net monthly income of both parents in child support orders.
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services developed a table that dictates the amount parents are presumed to spend on their children based on their combined net income. For example, parents who have a combined net income of $6,000 would be presumed to spend:
- $1,053 per month on one child;
- $1,585 per month on two children;
- $1,889 per month on three children;
- $2,110 per month on four children;
- $2,321 per month on five children; and
- $2,523 per month on six children.
That amount is then allocated between the parents based on their percentage share of their combined net income. However, a parent’s share can be adjusted up or down based on other support obligations they may have.
The parent who has the children for the least number of overnights each year (the non-custodial parent) will pay their share to the other parent. However, if that parent has the children for at least 146 overnights in the year, they will be considered to be in a shared parenting situation. In that case, the amount they pay will be reduced based on the total number of overnights they have with the children.
To help attorneys and courts make this calculation, the legislature provides an online child support estimator to determine the default child support amount. To calculate child support, you must provide the following information:
- The number of children you have;
- How many nights the children spend with each parent;
- Each parent’s net income;
- Whether either parent receives spousal support and how much;
- Whether either parent pays spousal support and how much;
- Whether the children receive dependent disability benefits paid on behalf of one of the parents and which parent that is;
- Whether either parent pays child support to children from another relationship and how much; and
- Whether either party is providing health insurance coverage or daycare, school, or extracurricular expenses for the children and how much.
Although the estimator provides a starting point for calculating child support, either litigant could contest the computation’s accuracy and ask a judge to rule on the child support amount. The judge can change the amount of child support owed in the proper circumstances.
A judge can deviate from the guidelines if justice will not be served by applying the standard guidelines. The judge must make specific findings that document the court’s reasoning for ordering a child support amount above or below the threshold. The parties must present evidence to convince the judge that applying the guidelines as written is inappropriate.
Usually, the judge must find that the circumstances are extraordinary before deviating from the Illinois child support guidelines. Exceptional circumstances include, for example, medical expenses necessary to preserve the parent or child’s life or to care for a child with learning disabilities.
How Is “Net Income” Calculated in a Chicago Child Support Order?
One of the most contentious areas of child support disputes involves how one or both parents define “net income” for purposes of a Chicago child support order. The revised statute indicates that the net income is the person’s gross income minus the standard tax amount. Gross income is the sum of all money a person made in a year, from all sources. Gross income includes:
- Regular salary,
- Spousal support,
- Profits from sales, and
- Fees made as an independent contractor.
People play fast and loose at times with their gross income. They try to hide some of their income because they do not want a court to consider it when ruling on support. Additionally, the person might want to keep the income secret because they did not report it to the IRS.
The situation becomes more complicated when one of the parents is a business owner. Business owners have wide latitude when it comes to identifying business expenses to keep their tax rates low.
If you do not agree with the other parent’s claimed net income calculation, you could ask the judge to review the relevant evidence and testimony to arrive at both parties’ net income rate. Asking for a ruling could be advantageous if you believe that the other parent concealed money from the court.
Is It Better to Get a Lawyer for Child Support?
Child support can be extremely complicated. Only a Chicago child support lawyer with vast experience handling complicated child support cases could properly advise you. The right lawyer could help you determine whether the child support award is correct and whether the parent has grounds to ask a judge to deviate from the default calculation.
Having a seasoned Chicago child support lawyer by your side will help you keep your childrens’ best interests at heart. An experienced attorney also understands the importance of listening to their clients’ demands and either negotiating a settlement or vigorously litigating the question of child support.
Additionally, a child support lawyer in Chicago could assist you with other issues related to your children, such as custody arrangements and visitation.
Can a Lawyer Help Lower Child Support?
Having a committed and dedicated attorney by your side as an advocate could help you reduce your child support payments.
Even if you already have a court order regarding your support obligation, you have the right to ask the court to modify its previous orders if you can show you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances. A Chicago child support lawyer could persuasively argue to the court why your child support should be lowered.
A judge will not reduce a child support order just because money is tight. However, A lawyer who possesses a deep understanding of Illinois child support laws could pursue an order to modify child support if you lose a job or get hurt at work and cannot afford to pay child support.
You could also seek a modification if the other parent finds better employment or has a financial windfall that makes paying the same amount of money every month unjust to the non-custodial parent.
In some cases, courts will consider the amount of income a step-parent accumulates. However, those circumstances might be limited to situations where the custodial child’s parent is purposely under-employed or unemployed. The court might consider the finances of the child’s step-parent in the interest of fairness.
Does Child Support Increase If a Salary Increases?
The court could see an increase in salary as a substantial change in circumstances and increase or decrease a child support order accordingly. However, salary increases are not the sole determinant of a child support increase.
Even if your income changes, a savvy child support lawyer from Chicago could use other changes in circumstances to argue against an increase in child support. For example, perhaps your percentage of overnights has increased or other relevant expenses, such as spousal support, day care expenses, or costs for extracurricular activities has also changed. Such changes could minimize the impact of a salary increase on child support.
Consult a Chicago Child Support Lawyer Today
Call Vantage Group Legal Services today at (773) 938-4747, or visit our contact page to speak with one of our experienced network attorneys who will guide you through every step of your Chicago child support case.
Vantage Group Legal Services offers a free, no-obligation consultation. Vantage will match you with an experienced child support lawyer in Chicago who will help ensure that you remain in your child’s life forever.