The Many Flavors of Child Support
Summer in Chicago often brings with it many trips to the ice cream parlor for me and my family. I enjoy good hard-pack ice cream and my wife absolutely LOVES it so if it’s a Sunday and the temperature is 85+ there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll be enjoying the beach and a cone. Good quality ice cream is good, plus, a good ice cream shop has a lot of choices too…sort of like going to the salad bar, it’s fun to choose between a lot of yummy things.
Did you know that there are various ‘flavors’ or types of child support too? I find that a lot of people know that there’s something called ‘child support’ that’s involved in legal disputes in divorce and parenting cases but they really don’t know much about it. I find that the average person sort of knows the equivalent of a plain, vanilla ice cream cone version of child support when the reality is that there are MANY ice cream flavors with MANY topping choices and even MANY cone types these days (love seeing the pretzel cones out there).
Let me divide child support into 2 main categories and then I’ll break things down with even more detail within each of the 2 main categories….
MINIMUM Statutory Guideline Child Support
Illinois child support basics are that both parents have an obligation to support their kids and depending on the financial resources of each parent as well as the parenting time arrangement between the parents, oftentimes one parent will need to pay an amount certain to the other parent. These are some common scenarios:
- Pure guideline child support paid by one parent to the other parent. Illinois law provides that different income percentages be paid by the payor parent based on the number of children (1/20%, 2/28%, 3/32%, etc). This situation remains fairly common when one parent is the clear, majority time parent where the kids are with a parent 70% of the time or more. Although this set-up isn’t as common as it used to be, this would be the classic father who had parenting time only on alternate weekends with his kids. This father would have to pay guideline child support.
- Equal parenting time child support. I see a lot of equal parenting time arrangements these days, especially when kids are real young and when the parents live close to one another. Does a parent have to pay child support if the parenting time is equal? Generally, if the incomes of the parents are fairly equal NO. However, if the incomes are not equal then YES, but, usually less than the statutory, percentage guidelines above. If there’s equal parenting time with unequal incomes I typically see judges take the difference between what each parents guideline child support order would be and then the higher income earner pays that difference to the lower income earner. For example, in a family with one kid mother earns $10,000 monthly (20% child support equals $2,000 monthly) and father earns $5,000 monthly (20% child support equals $1,000 monthly) so we take the difference between 2,000 MINUS 1,000. And mother pays father $1,000 per month in child support.
- BELOW guideline child support. Extremely high income earners generally aren’t going to be stuck paying the different percentage guidelines of child support…20/28/32/etc. In my experience, child support in cases where the payor earns north of $500,000 annually are going to be tied more to the needs of the child so that the receiving parent isn’t getting a huge monetary windfall. There’s no hard/fast rule in terms of how high of an income you need to avoid paying percentage income child support but somewhere in the $400,000 and up category is a rough estimate. We see this in cases involving professional athletes quite often.
- ABOVE guideline child support. I see this arise in cases where a payor’s income is hard to determine. Or I’ll see it where the lesser time parent may be voluntarily working less than full-time and/or has assets available to help support the child/children. Or, as I’ll discuss more below…when there’s a parent who has obligations beyond minimum statutory, guideline child support and doesn’t keep up with those payments sometimes a judge will include say a contribution to school expenses in child support so that it can be garnished from a payor’s wages.
BEYOND The Minimum Statutory Guidelines
Far too many parents only settle for the minimum statutory guideline amount for child support. If you use the IL Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services for child support collection it’s all they pursue (this is a great reason among many others NOT to use HFS for child support collection). Why not get your kids ALL of the financial support that they’re entitled too?
- Expense contribution. The court in its discretion can order parents to contribute to uncovered health-related expenses, child care, education, and extra-curricular expenses. There’s a lot of money in this category that’s often totally ignored. Daycare and after-school care for kids is EXPENSIVE. Most suburban school districts have pretty hefty school registration costs. And if your kids play hockey, look out regarding those costs.
- Dependent Tax exemptions. Obviously this varies a lot based on income and different ‘tax factor’s but the child dependent tax exemptions are worth THOUSANDS of dollars and yet these are often ignored.
- Obamacare Shared Responsibility Payment. The Affordable Care Act provides for fines in the event a child doesn’t have health insurance coverage. This needs to be allocated as part of the child support circle.
You and your children are valuable and expensive. Why not get the financial support that you’re entitled too?
Checkout this Webinar that I presented recently too: How to Get Child Support for you Kids in Illinois: 6 Common Questions Answered.