It is generally understood that all parents have a moral obligation to help support their children. When a child’s parents are no longer together due to divorce or a breakup, the obligation often transforms from a subjective, moral responsibility to an objective, legal one. In Illinois, the law provides that either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support, but most cases result in a support obligation for only one parent.
The Need for an Update
For several decades, Illinois courts have relied on a calculation method that determines the supporting parent’s obligation as a specific percentage of his or her income based on the number of supported children. This model, however, has come under fire in recent years as family dynamics and cultural expectations have evolved. Many believe that the existing method is inherently unfair to the supporting parent, as it does not statutorily account for the recipient parent’s income or shared parenting time.
In August of 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a measure that directly addressed the issue of child support. The new law—which takes effect on July 1, 2017—will bring the state’s approach to calculating support obligations more in line with the needs of today’s families.
Setting New Standards
The first steps in implementing the new law are already underway. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has been tasked with creating a table that establishes what percentage of the combined income that “parents living in the same household in this State would ordinarily spend on their children.” For example, the DHFS may determine that a couple who makes $3,000 per month would normally spend $500 on raising one child. In a child support proceeding, $500 would be used as the basic child support amount for a couple with one child and a combined monthly income of $3,000.
Costs of child care, medical insurance, and other reasonable expenses would be added to the basic child support obligation. The total would then be divided between the parents in accordance with their respective contributions toward the combined income. Using the same example, if one spouse earned $1,000 per month and the other earned $2,000, the higher-earning spouse would be responsible for two-thirds of the calculated child support obligation.
A More Equitable Approach
While the new model is a bit more complex than the one currently in use, it needs to be so that it can take more factors into account. For the first time, both parents’ income must be considered so that the obligation can be shared more equitably. The new law also provides a mechanism for incorporating shared parenting time in situations where the child(ren) spends at least 146 overnights per year with each parent. Again, the intended result is a child support arrangement that more accurately reflects a family’s full financial situation, not just that of the paying party.
Child Support Questions?
If you have concerns about how the new law may affect your child support obligation, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. today.