Child Support

In most cases where the parents are not living together, Illinois courts will award child support to the parent with whom the children primarily reside. This parent is usually referred to as the custodial parent, or the obligee. The parent who is responsible to pay child support is called the non-custodial parent, or the obligor.

Which expenses are covered by Child Support?

Unfortunately, this is not well defined by Illinois law. Most courts view child support payments as covering at least the children’s basic needs such as shelter, food, clothing and utilities. By law, courts can order that the obligor provide and pay for health insurance for the children in addition to child support. Illinois courts will often order that additional expenses be split between both parents, including school, extracurricular, child care and health care expenses that are not covered by insurance.

How much child support do I owe or am I entitled to?

The court is required by law (750 ILCS 5/505) to first calculate a “guideline” child support amount based on the non-custodial parent’s net income, per the following table:

Illinois Guideline Child Support
Number of Children Percentage of Obligor’s Income
1 20%
2 28%
3 32%
4 40%
5 45%
6 or more 50%

Although, the court has some discretion to deviate from this guideline if it finds the support amount inappropriate, in most cases involving middle class parents, the amount of child support will be within a few percentage points of the guidelines.

What are the factors for deviating from the guidelines?

The parties themselves can agree to deviate from the child support guidelines. If only one party wants a deviation, then the court uses the following factors to analyze the case:

  1. the financial resources and needs of the child;
  2. the financial resources and needs of the custodial parent;
  3. the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
  4. the physical and emotional condition of the child, and his educational needs; and
  5. the financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

Note that the amount of time that each parent spends with the children is NOT a factor deviating from the guidelines. See In re Marriage of Sobieski 2013 IL App (2d) 111146.

What is net income?

Net income for child support purposes is not necessarily the net amount shown on a paystub. It is the amount of income from all sources (including gifts or support payments from family) minus certain mandatory deductions (for example, taxes, insurance, union dues).

The state of Illinois provides a worksheet to help calculate child support:

How is it paid?

By default, child support payments are withheld from the obligor’s paycheck by his or her employer and sent to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit. The parties can agree, however, that the obligor will deliver the child support payments directly to the obligee, bypassing the state disbursement unit. Under Illinois law this agreement must be made in writing. The obligee retains the right to have the payments go to the state disbursement unit if the obligor falls behind on payments.

What is the Illinois State Disbursement Unit?

The Illinois State Disbursement Unit is an agency that collects child support payments withheld from employers. The agency keeps accounting records of the payments collected and to sends payments to the obligor.

Retroactive child support

The retroactive date for beginning child support payments is different depending on whether or not the parties were married.

If the parties were never married, Illinois law theoretically allows custodial parents to ask for retroactive payments from the date of the child’s birth.

If the parents were married, the custodial parent can only as for retroactive payments back to the day he or she filed a motion asking the court to award them child support. Note that this is NOT the same day a petition was filed for divorce, but the day a separate motion for child support was filed.

Can child support be modified?

Yes, child support can always be modified. According to Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/510), the court can modify the child support amount if there is a substantial change in circumstance or if obligor’s income level has changed by 20% or more. The court can only modify child support retroactively to the date the parties filed a motion asking for the modification.

How long does child support last?

Child support lasts until one of the following events occurs:

  1. The child emancipates
  2. The child turns 18, if the child has already graduated high school
  3. The child graduates high school, if the child has not yet turned 19
  4. The child turns 19

What about college expenses?

Illinois courts can order parents to pay some of the Child’s college expenses. This amount is not determined by the child support guidelines. Is determined by taking into account the total college expenses and dividing them between the child, the former custodial parent, and the noncustodial parents pursuant to the factors listed in section 513 (750 ILCS 5/513).