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Wheaton, IL child support attorney for past-due support obligationsChild support payments are intended to provide a parent with the financial support he or she needs to cover housing, education, and other child-related costs. Illinois has adopted the “Income Shares” model for child support calculations. The amount a parent pays in child support in Illinois is typically based on the difference between the parents’ net incomes. This calculation method is designed to ensure that payments provide for the child’s needs and are reasonably affordable for the paying parent or “obligor.” However, circumstances can change, and obligor parents may find themselves in a situation where they cannot fulfill their child support obligations. If you are a parent who has fallen behind on child support payments in Illinois, you may wonder what types of consequences you may face. You may also question whether there is anything you can do to remedy the situation.

Child Support Arrears

Past due child support, or “child support arrears,” can cause significant legal problems for an obligor parent. Child support orders are legally enforceable court orders. If you fail to comply with the order, you may face a variety of consequences, including wage garnishment, liens on your property, interception of your tax returns, suspension of your driver’s license, and more. You may even be held in contempt of court.

Options for Illinois Parents Who Owe Child Support

If you cannot afford your child support payments because you lost your job, suffered a major injury or illness, or had other financial problems, you may wonder what to do next. The worst thing you can do is ignore the situation. You should contact your child’s other parent as well as the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Child Support Services and notify them of the situation. You may be able to reduce your child support obligation through a child support modification. However, this modification will only reduce the amount you will pay in new payments. You will still need to pay back the past due child support plus interest.

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Wheaton child support lawyerWhen married parents get divorced, or unmarried parents split up, one parent may be required to pay child support. The purpose of child support payments is to help the parent with the majority of parenting time pay for the costs associated with the child’s housing, nutrition, clothing, and other needs. Child support also helps ensure that a child with unmarried or divorced parents enjoys a standard of living that is similar to what he or she would have received if his or her parents were still married. However, child support can also be a significant expense for the paying or “obligor” parent – especially when the parent has more than one child support obligation.

Child Support Considerations for Parents with Multiple Families

If you are a parent who is already paying child support, and you are considering divorce, you may have questions about how the child support you currently pay will affect your new obligations. You may wonder if you will be required to pay child support to both families, and if so, how you will afford multiple obligations. Child support payment amounts are typically calculated using a statutory formula described in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The amount that a parent is asked to pay is determined through the “Income Shares” calculation method. The Income Shares model involves four main steps:

  • Each parent’s net income or “take home pay” is determined by subtracting certain expenses from the parent’s gross income. Expenses such as income tax, health insurance, child support obligations, and spousal support obligations are subtracted from the parent’s income for the purposes of child support calculations. This means that the amount you pay in child support for a second obligation takes into consideration the amount of child support that you are already paying.

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Wheaton child support attorneyIf you are a parent who relies on child support payments to cover the costs associated with your children’s housing, school and extracurricular activities, and child care, you know just how important this financial assistance is. When a paying parent or “obligor” fails to make child support payments in full and on time, this can lead to significant financial hardship. In many cases, child support non-payment is due to unemployment or underemployment. Read on to learn about how a parent’s employment status may influence the amount of child support they are required to pay.

Is the Obligor’s Employment Status Involuntary?

Illinois child support orders are calculated via the “Income Shares” model. The main factor in determining the amount of parents’ child support obligations is the net income each parent earns. If your child’s other parent is not working, working only part time, or earns a very low income, you may wonder how this will affect your child support order. 

To answer this question, the court must first determine whether a parent’s unemployment or underemployment is voluntary or involuntary. Involuntary unemployment or underemployment may qualify a parent for a lowered child support obligation. For example, if a parent has been laid off from their job due to no fault of their own, the amount they pay in child support may be reduced accordingly, although the court will likely require the parent to seek employment that will allow them to contribute toward their children’s needs. However, if a parent has quit his or her job, chooses to work limited hours, or lost his or her job but makes little effort to find gainful employment, this situation will likely be treated differently under Illinois law.  

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DuPage County child support attorney for college expensesThe average cost of a 4-year public college education is just over $45,000. If the student attends a private or out-of-state school, that number can rise to $100,000-$150,000, or even more. Understandably, paying for children’s college tuition and fees is a major concern for many parents. The question of how to finance a child’s college education becomes even more pressing if the parents are unmarried or divorced. If you plan to end your marriage or were never married to your child’s other parent, it is essential that you understand your rights and obligations regarding non-minor support for college expenses.

How Much Money Are Parents Required to Contribute to Their Child’s College Education?

Illinois courts have the authority to require parents who are unmarried or divorced to contribute toward their children’s college expenses. These expenses may include tuition, housing, textbooks and fees, living expenses, medical insurance, and medical expenses. Courts may order parents’ financial contributions to be paid to the child, the university or college, or to either parent. 

There is no statutory formula for calculating the amount that each parent must pay toward the child’s education. However, there is a cap on the amount of money that a parent can be ordered to contribute. According to Illinois law, the amount that a parent is required to contribute cannot surpass the current cost of in-state tuition and fees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Parents’ obligations end if the student fails to maintain a “C” average, turns 23, receives his or her bachelor’s degree, or gets married. Parents are not typically ordered to contribute to their child’s master’s degree or other advanced education. In special circumstances, a court may make an exception to these rules.  

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DuPage County child support and parenting time attorneyThe average cost of raising a child from birth until age 18 is almost $300,000. If you are a single parent, you know just how quickly child-related expenses can add up. Child support is a vital source of financial assistance that many single parents come to depend on. When an obligor parent is not paying his or her court-ordered child support, the recipient parent may wonder what he or she can do to make the other parent pay. In some cases, the parent who is owed child support may decide to withhold visitation, technically called parenting time, from the other parent until he or she becomes current on his or her child support payments. However, withholding visitation can have significant civil and criminal consequences.

Parenting Time and Child Support Are Two Separate Issues Under Illinois Law

Illinois law considers child support and parenting time to be two distinct concerns. A court will not limit a parent’s access to his or her children because he or she falls behind on child support. The only time that a parent should be denied parenting time is if there is proof that allowing court-ordered parenting time would present a danger to the well-being of the child. If your child’s other parent is not paying child support, this does not negate his or her legal right to parenting time. In fact, by withholding your child from the non-paying parent, you may be violating your parenting plan, and you could face serious consequences as a result. You may face fines, the suspension of your driver’s license, probation, mandated parenting classes, and even jail time. Even more importantly, refusing to let your child see the other parent may punish your child more than it punishes the non-paying parent.

How to Enforce an Illinois Child Support Order

If your child’s other parent has stopped making child support payments, you do have several options for enforcing payments. You can file a petition with the court to enforce child support obligations, and different methods may be used to collect the support that is owed, including but not limited to:

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