The Two Faces of Child Support

Under Illinois law, all parents, married or single, have a duty to financially support their children. In the case of married parents, the law assumes, rightly or wrongly, that this financial support takes place. Divorced parents, and those who were never married, must often pay child support. These financial provisions are among the very few that are commonplace in almost all divorce decrees.

Failure to pay child support might mean the suspension of a drivers license or professional license, a lien placed on certain property, and, if one Illinois legislator has his way, the inability to participate in fantasy sports leagues. So, it is important that child support be set at an equitable level and paid in both a timely and verifiable manner.

Setting Support

Illinois is one of only nine percentage-of-income states, which simply means that obligor parents pay a fixed percentage of their incomes based on the number of children. Most all other states employ some variation of the income-share model, which incorporates the income of both parents when setting child support payments.

In The Land of Lincoln, there is a sliding scale that begins at 20 percent for one child and ends at 50 percent for six or more children. The guideline amounts are presumed to be reasonable, when taking into account the:

  • Financial needs of the children,
  • Resources of the custodial parent,
  • Educational needs of the children, and
  • Standard of living the children would have had if the parents were married.

Either party may request an adjustment based on these same factors, though such variations are difficult to obtain. The amount may be modified upon proof of changed circumstances, like a new job or a pay change.

Paying Support

The best way to pay support is via wage withholding, because payments are transferred instantly and completely verifiable. If wage withholding is not an option – for example, if the obligor is self-employed – direct payment through the Attorney General's website is almost as good. Sending paper checks to the Attorney General is also an option; the checks must always clearly reflect the account number.

Direct obligor-to-obligee payments, or the agreement to assume certain bills in lieu of paying cash support, is normally a bad idea for both parties. Obligee parents find themselves financially dependent on another person, and since the payments are not verifiable, obligors will have trouble establishing a payment history when disputes arise later.

For prompt assistance in this area, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. Convenient payment plans are available.


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