Illinois law provides that both parents have a duty to contribute to the support of their child. Even in cases where one parent has the ability to support the child without contribution from the other parent, the court is reluctant to release one parent from contributing to the support of the child. The amount of the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation depends on a variety of factors. However, the court is guided by statutory guidelines in which a non-custodial parent is required to pay a certain percentage of his/her net income depending on the number of children involved. The guidelines as set forth in the statute are minimum guidelines.
Where appropriate, the court may deviate from the guidelines and order the paying party to pay more or less than guideline support depending on relevant circumstances. For example, if the paying party is a high-income earner and payment of minimum guideline support would result in a windfall to the custodial parent, the court may allow a downward deviation from the minimum guidelines. Likewise, if a paying party is able to show substantial financial hardship due in part to payment of child support, the court may be willing to reduce the paying party’s support obligation below the statutory guidelines.
Illinois law has been interpreted to provide that under certain circumstances a custodial parent may seek contribution from the non-custodial parent for other expenses including the child’s daycare expenses, education expenses and medical expenses not covered by insurance.
The obligation to pay child support continues until the child is emancipated. In general, a child is considered emancipated when he/she reaches the age of 18. However, if a child attains the age of 18 while he/she is still attending high school, provisions for the payment of child support are not terminated until the date that the child graduates from high school or the date that the child attains the age of 19, whichever is earlier. If a child has special needs, including mental or physical disability, the court may order that support payments continue beyond the typical termination events.
A parent’s obligation to pay child support does not terminate with the death of the obligated parent. Therefore, when entering an order for child support, the court will generally require the obligated parent to obtain a life insurance policy for a specific amount, with the child listed as the sole beneficiary of the policy.
Under certain circumstances, child support may be modified. Specifically, a child support order may be modified where there has been a change in custody, where there is an increase in the child’s need for support and where there is a decrease or increase in the payor’s ability to pay. In cases where the obligated parent seeks a modification of the child support order due to a decreased ability to pay, he/she must show that the reduction in ability to pay support was made in good faith. The court will not allow a reduction in child support where the obligated parent voluntarily reduces his/her income.
In limited cases, the court may enter an order abating child support for a certain period of time. When the court enters an order abating child support, the obligated parent is not required to make payments for the specified period of time. Abatement is different than termination of child support payments in that the amounts due for child support accrue during the period of non-payment and are expected to be paid at a later time. Abatement may be sought when a paying party loses his/her job and is unable to pay support during the period of unemployment. It is the expectation of the court that the obligated parent is being diligent and making a good faith effort to obtain gainful employment and that payment of accrued support payments will occur upon obtaining new employment.
It is important to note that a parent’s obligation to pay child support is independent of issues related to visitation. An obligated parent may not withhold child support because he/she has been denied visitation rights. Each issue is addressed separately be the court, and therefore it is the obligation of a parent to pay child support pursuant to the terms of the order for support whether or not he/she is permitted to have visitation with the child.
If you have questions regarding child support or wish to discuss your particular case, please feel free to call The Law Office of Catherine M. Byrne at 312-637-5356.