Parents are obligated to provide financial support for their minor children, oftentimes in the form of child support and/or contribution to child-related expenses. WARD FAMILY LAW, LLC, works closely with clients at the onset of their case to obtain the full financial disclosure of both parties to be able to properly and accurately calculate child support under the guidelines provided by Illinois law.
In the fall of 2016, the Illinois Legislature passed and the Governor signed a new statute that completely changes the way child support is calculated in Illinois. The new law took effect on July 1, 2017.
The law eliminates the former percentages and creates what is called the income shares approach. The statute provides reasoning “to calculate child support based upon the parent’s combined adjusted net income estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and children were living in an intact household.”
The Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services established child support guidelines, which include worksheets for calculating the child support and a table (also known as a “schedule”) to show the percentage of the combined net income “the parents living in the same household in this State ordinarily spend on their children.”
Child support is generally a set sum of money paid from one parent to another parent for support of the child(ren). The basic child support obligation is calculated using the established guidelines and schedules for Illinois. All child support determinations begin by referencing these schedules, regardless of parenting time or other factors that may affect the final child support amount.
The Illinois schedule cross-references the combined net income of the parents with the number of children the parents have together. Note that the schedule utilizes net income, which is income after state and federal taxes are deducted, not gross income, which is income before taxes. The basic child support obligation is the resulting value from the schedule using the parents’ combined net incomes and the number of children. This basic child support obligation is then prorated between the parents based on their respective net incomes.
In this example, we will consider a household with a combined net income of $10,000, where both spouses contribute $5,000 to the combined net income, or 50%. Absent extenuating circumstances, each spouse would be responsible for half of the basic child support obligation from the Illinois schedule.
However, if Spouse A contributes $6,000, and Spouse B contributes $4,000, Spouse A would most likely be responsible for 60% of the basic child support obligation from the schedule, while Spouse B would be responsible for 40%.
For another example: If there are two children, and if based on the combined income of the parents, $50,000 annually is spent on the two children, and if the father has 40% of the combined income and the mother 60%, and if the father is to pay child support, he would pay 40% of the $50,000 or $20,000 annually.
(Basic child support obligation x Percent contributed to combined net income) + (Additional expenses ordered by court x Percent contributed to combined net income) = Total Child Support Obligation
The non-custodial parent is then required to pay their total child support obligation to the custodial parent. While Illinois has discarded the concept of child custody in recent laws, the term custodial parent is used in this case to refer to which parent the child resides with the most, in any non-shared parenting situation.
In a shared parenting situation, there are additional steps taken when calculating child support obligations, which will be explained in detail later.
For the first time, the new statute makes it explicitly clear that spousal maintenance/alimony received pursuant to a court order is income for child support purposes.
Also, if a parent is unemployed or underemployed voluntarily, there is a rebuttable presumption that the income is “75% of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for a family of one person.” There is also “a rebuttable presumption that a minimum child support obligation of $40.00 per month per child, will be entered…”
There are additional child care expenses that can be added to the basic child support obligation. These include:
Calculating a parent’s share of these additional expenses is similar to the calculation of the basic child support obligation, except these additional expenses are not calculated from a schedule. Each parent provides an amount for any such additional expenses, and these amounts are added together. The resulting total is then prorated between the parents based on each parent’s percentage contribution to the combined net income to determine how much of the total additional expenses each parent should pay.
Each parent’s percentage of these additional expenses is added to his or her basic child support obligation, resulting in his or her total child support obligation.
In Illinois, parents are considered to have “shared parenting time” when each parent has the child(ren) for at least 146 overnights (or 40%) each year. If one parent has less than 146 overnights each year, then it is not considered “shared parenting,” and child support is calculated using the regular formula. If parents have shared parenting, the total child support obligation is calculated differently.
How to calculate parenting time allocation: Assume that the winter break from school is two weeks, the spring break is one week, and each parent gets two weeks of vacation during the summer, which leaves 45 weeks in the year. If each parent gets two weeks in the summer plus half of the winter break, then each parent starts with 21 days. A parent would then need 125 additional days to get to 146 days. If the parties alternated the spring break, then they would each have 3.5 days. Then a parent would need 121.5 overnights in a year. Divide that by 45 weeks remaining in the year, then a parent would need three overnights out of seven for the rest of the year in order to reach 146 nights.
The potential for parents to significantly argue about getting both of them to 146 nights minimum turns into a financial one rather than a consideration of what parenting plan may be best for the children. It can easily be foreseen that one parent will significantly and strenuously argue that the other parent should not reach 146 nights and the parent who wishes that will strenuously argue for it. A Judge may need to attempt to determine if the reason for seeking 146 is merely to save child support.
For a shared parenting situation, the basic child support obligation is still determined using the Illinois schedule for the number of children and the parents’ combined net incomes. However, with shared parenting, the basic child support obligation from the schedule is then multiplied by 1.5 to obtain the shared care support obligation. The 1.5 multiplier is intended to account for the cost of transportation between the parent’s respective residences and any duplicate expenses that arise with shared parenting.
The resulting shared care support obligation is prorated between the parents based on each parent’s percentage of contribution to the combined net income (as with the non-shared parenting calculation). The resulting value for each parent is called their child support obligation.
Each parent’s resulting child support obligation is then multiplied with the other parent’s [‘percentage of parenting time (i.e. the number of overnights the other parent has each year divided by 365) to produce the individual obligation for each parent.
Unlike in non-shared parenting cases where the non-custodial parent pays their obligation to the custodial parent, those in a shared parenting situation are close to having equal parenting time with their child(ren). Therefore, there is no predetermined custodial or non-custodial parent.
Instead, individual child support obligations for both parents are offset to find the difference between them. The parent who owes the greater amount of individual child support is ordered responsible for paying that difference to the parent who owes the lesser amount of individual child support.
Under the former law, the amount that an obligor parent was required to pay in child support was based simply on the obligor’s income and the number of children involved.
Under the new “income shares” model for calculating Illinois child support, the total amount of child support for which the parents are jointly responsible is calculated based on the combined net income of both parents. Once this number is determined, each parent’s share of the responsibility for providing that amount of child support is calculated based on the net incomes of the parents relative to one another.
This means that, unlike the previous law, the new child support law takes the income of the recipient of the child support into account when determining the amount of the obligor parent’s child support obligation.
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