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Every child deserves to have a safe, comfortable home in which to grow up. When parents divorce, one of the courts main duties is to make decisions which will benefit the children of the marriage. Often, this means that one of the spouses will be compelled to make child support payments to the other in order to help them raise the children.
When Is Child Support Awarded?
Child support is almost universally granted to one of the spouses during a divorce. Illinois courts base their child support decisions on an “income shares” model. This model considers both parents’ incomes and the number of children, as well as the amount of parenting time each parent has. The amount of child support is based on an estimation of the total cost of raising the child. This cost is then equitably divided between the parents based on each of their respective net incomes. The parent with more parenting time will usually receive the support payments.
Before July 2017, the way child support was calculated in Illinois was considered by many to be outdated and ineffective. The previous method of calculating child support was based almost solely on the income of non-custodial parent—the parent with fewer parental responsibilities. These child support laws and calculation procedures were criticized for placing an unfair burden on the paying parent.
An Outdated Model
For several decades, Illinois child support payments were determined as a percentage of the paying parent’s income based on the number of children being supported. Many people found such a method to be inherently unfair for two main reasons. First, fewer families rely on a single income than they once did, especially in the wake of a divorce, but only one parent’s income was considered when calculating child support payments. Doing so failed to account in any real way for the child’s standard of living or the income of the parent with primary residential responsibilities.
In July of this year, a new law regarding the calculation of child support went into effect in Illinois. The measure was intended to update the state’s approach to child support and to bring Illinois more in line with most other states. The change was largely seen as an improvement over the previous law, as calculations must take into account the income of both parents instead of just the paying parent, as well as a number of other factors that were not considered in the past.
Those who already have a child support order in place may be curious about how—if at all—the new law will affect their current obligations. Most, however, will need to wait until there is a sufficient justification to amend their existing order before they will see any changes to their support payments.
Substantial Changes in Circumstances
While good parents love their children, it can be a very freeing feeling to no longer have to pay child support for them. Most of the time, this obligation ends when the child reaches becomes a legal adult, but there are some unusual situations where the requirement may end earlier or later. Either way, it can be very helpful to understand how the law in Illinois addresses ending a child support obligation.
The Regular Standard
In most cases, Illinois child support law stipulates that support obligations end on the child’s 18th birthday as long as he or she has graduated from high school. If your order does not specify a date, you may petition the court to end payments at the time you feel is appropriate. It is, of course, the court’s decision whether or not to grant the petition. Until your obligations end, you must help provide for all reasonable and necessary emotional, physical, mental and other needs that your child may have.
While it is not the law in every state, in Illinois, a divorced parent in Illinois can be made to contribute to their child’s college expenses. The state of Illinois has a vested interest in ensuring its citizens have every opportunity to obtain an education. However, for parents who are unaware of this possibility, it can come as a nasty surprise. It is always best to educate yourself beforehand, if at all possible.
What Does The Law Say?
The relevant statute is contained in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The law states that a court generally has discretion to order “sums of money” from the “property and income of either or both” parents or the estate of a deceased parent (if appropriate) to go toward undergraduate educational expenses for any “child of the parties.” Educational expenses does not mean just tuition, but may also cover textbooks, room and board, transportation costs, or any other relevant expenditure. Such assistance will end when the child graduates or turns 23, though there have been exceptions for late starts. In no case will the court approve payments beyond the age of 25.