Is It Time to Take Your Child Support Case Back to Court?
If your child support order was entered prior to 2017, it was calculated under old law. Previously, child support was based solely on the income of the non-residential parent (i.e. the parent who does live with the children most of the time). The child support amount was a certain percent of the non-residential parent’s income: 20 percent for one child, 28 percent for two children, 32 percent for three children, 40 percent for four children, and so on. The judge calculated the non-residential parent’s child support payment based only on their income and the number of children the parents shared.
How Has Illinois Child Support Law Changed?
Last year Illinois implemented new laws that drastically changed the way that the courts calculate child support payments. Judges now look at the incomes of both parents to determine their combined child support obligation. This method is called an income-shared approach, meaning that both parents have a child support obligation to the child. In order to calculate the new child support amount, the judge looks at both parents’ net incomes (net income is gross income minus taxes and certain other deductions). The parents’ net incomes are combined to create a “household income”, as though the parents and children live together. Illinois has created a guideline child support amount that both parents must contribute toward based on that combined household income. Each parent is responsible for a percentage of the child support guideline amount based on the percentage of that parent’s contribution to the household income. So, if the non-residential parent’s income is 60 percent of the household income, then the non-residential parent has to pay 60 percent of the child support guideline amount. Under that scenario, the residential parent is then responsible for 40 percent of the child support amount. However, it is important to note that the non-residential parent does not have to make a payment as they are already considered to be paying child support because the child lives in their home.
What Do These Changes Mean For You?
Child support payment amounts do not change unless one of the parents brings the case back to court and asks for the child support payment amount to be recalculated. Consequently, even though you and your ex may see significant changes in one or both of your incomes, the child support amount will remain the same unless one of you seeks to modify it. Because the guidelines are now based on both parents’ incomes, you may want to consider bringing your case back to court if your income or your ex’s income has significantly changed since the last child support order was entered. These changes to the law may allow you to lower your child support payment, or increase you ex’s child support payment, depending on your current incomes.
If You Want to Lower Your Child Support Payment:
If you are the non-residential parent and have had an involuntary decrease in your income, the current law could help you to reduce your child support payment. We have had many clients come to us with child support orders that were created when they earned a higher income. A reduction in income does not mean an automatic reduction in your child support payment—you have to return to court to request that the payment amount be lowered. A significant involuntary decrease in income will allow you to re-open your case so that a new child support payment can be calculated based on your reduced income. It is important to note that a significant income decrease is usually 10 percent or more and must be involuntary. You cannot quit your job, go back to school, or cut your hours back to part-time in order to ask for a reduction in your child support payment.
Another reason to consider bringing your case back to court is if you believe your ex has experienced a significant increase in income. Previously, the residential parent’s income was not considered when assessing child support payment amounts. Under the current guidelines, if your ex earns more than you they are responsible for a greater portion of the child support guideline amount even if they are the residential parent. If your ex is now earning a larger salary than when you were last in court, or you suspect they may be making more money than you, recalculating the child support amount utilizing their increased income could lower your payment.
If You Want to Increase Your Ex’s Child Support Payment:
Many clients come to us with old child support payment amounts that were calculated when the non-residential parent was in school, working part-time, or just earned a lower salary. Child support payments do not change until one of the parents brings the case back to court based on a “significant change” in circumstances. Usually, a significant change is an increase or decrease in income of 10 percent or more. If you believe that your ex’s income has significantly increased since your child support payment was calculated, you can bring your case back to court to ask that your ex’s child support payment be recalculated based on their current income. An increase in their income could result in a larger child support payment for your child.
What Should You Do Next?
Chicago Family Law Group, LLC has successfully helped many people on both sides of this issue. Whether you are looking to decrease your child support payment or increase your ex’s child support payment, we can help. Under the current law, modifying your child support order does not have to be a long or difficult process. We have been able to help many of our clients modify their child support payments within six to twelve months of filing to re-open their cases.
Call us today at (312) 893-5888 to discuss your case with one of our attorneys and find out how we can help you.