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Parenting Time Change Can Allow Child Support ModificationYou are allowed to modify the child support order from your divorce at any time as long as you can show that there has been a significant change of circumstances that makes the modification necessary. The change of circumstances is usually a change in the income of one of the parents or a change in the cost of supporting the children. However, a change in the division of parenting time may also be enough reason to modify your child support payment.

Shared Parenting

Illinois has a modified version of its child support formula that it uses when parents have a 60-40 division of parenting time or less, which qualifies as shared parenting. The paying parent does not need to provide as much support to the other parent because they are directly paying for more of the children’s expenses. Thus, it is appropriate to modify child support payments if the division of parenting time reaches the shared parenting threshold.

No Time Limit to Modify

A recent Illinois case shows that courts can misapply child support laws in ways that need to be corrected. In the case of In re Marriage of Izzo, a man sought to reduce his child support payments to his former wife based on three changes of circumstance:

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How Do Divorced Parents Apply for College Financial Aid?It is difficult to pay for a college education without some form of financial aid. Grants, scholarships, and loans can help cover the tens of thousands of dollars that it may cost to attend a four-year institution. Many students and their parents will use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see which sources of financial aid are available to them. When filling out the FAFSA form, parents must submit their recent financial records to determine which financial aid resources they qualify for. The application process is more complicated for parents who have divorced.

Who Fills Out the FAFSA Application?

Only one divorced parent will file the FAFSA application because only one of the parents will report their income. The Higher Education Act of 1965 includes a section explaining which parent must report their income if the parents are divorced or separated:

  • The filing parent is the one with whom the child has spent a majority of the time in the 12 months prior to the date of the application.
  • If the parenting time is exactly even, then the parent who contributed the most to child support in the past 12 months must fill out the form.
  • If neither parent contributed to child support in the past 12 months, then they will go back to the most recent calendar year in which child support was paid.
  • If parents have evenly split their child support costs, then the application reviewers may decide based on criteria such as which parent has a greater income.

What Counts as Income?

The filing parent must submit current federal income tax returns and records of any untaxed sources of income. Their income includes child support and spousal maintenance payments that they receive from the other parent. If the filing parent has remarried as of the date of the application, they must include their new spouse’s income.

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Child Support Variables That You Will DecideDivorcing parents in Illinois do not negotiate child support payments in the same way they may negotiate spousal maintenance. With spousal maintenance, you may need to decide whether payments are necessary and how long they should last. With child support, those issues are predetermined. Child support is mandatory and will last until all of your children have turned 18 or graduated from high school. The formula for calculating child support is also set because the income shares table will tell you the base child support obligation that you share. However, there are still factors regarding child support that you can control.

Establishing Your Income

When calculating child support payments, parents may disagree on their respective incomes. Your income level affects the total child support obligation between the two of you and how much of that obligation you will pay. You need to accurately report your income while making sure that your spouse is not underreporting their income. Your spouse may accuse you of misrepresenting your income. If you cannot agree on each other’s incomes, a divorce court will examine your case and decide for you.

Division of Parenting Time

The child support formula changes if you have what Illinois classifies as a shared parenting arrangement, which is each parent having at least 146 nights with the children. This is a 60-40 division of parenting time. The revised formula increases the overall child support obligation but expects both parents to pay for most of their own child-related expenses. As a result, the child support payments between parents are less than with parents who do not meet the requirements for a shared parenting arrangement.

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Receiving Retroactive Child Support PaymentsBoth legal parents have a financial obligation to support a child from the time it is born, even if one of the parents is not an active part of the child’s life. Child support is a common aspect of divorce but can be more difficult to establish when the parents were never married. A father can submit a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity, or the mother may file a petition to establish paternity. In disputed paternity cases, the court can order the father to pay retroactive child support if it legally establishes his paternity. The retroactive payments could go back to the date of the initial court filing or the date of the child’s birth.

Reason for Retroactive Payments

Retroactive child support commonly starts on the date that the parent filed a petition to establish paternity or to establish child support. In most cases, the mother is the one who is attempting to force the father to take financial responsibility for their child, though a father could file a petition to establish child support from an absent mother. Illinois allows retroactive child support orders to prevent a parent from avoiding their financial obligation by prolonging the court case. A paternity case can take months to settle and can be extended with other legal actions, such as appeals.

How Far Back Can Payments Go?

Illinois law allows courts to extend retroactive child support payments to dates before a parent filed a petition. Courts have interpreted this as the authority to start the retroactive payments as earlier as the child’s birth. The law lists several factors that courts must consider when setting the start date for retroactive payments, including:

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Disability Dependent Benefits Can Contribute to Child SupportBecoming permanently disabled does not eliminate your child support obligation after a divorce, but it can change what you pay. People who live off of disability benefits typically have less income than before, which allows them to modify their child support payments. If you are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance, your children may be eligible to receive SSDI dependent benefits as well. In shared parenting situations, these payments would go directly towards child support.

What Are SSDI Dependent Benefits?

The purpose of SSDI dependent benefits is to help a disabled parent support his or her children who rely on the parent’s income. A child can qualify for SSDI dependent benefits if he or she is:

  • Younger than 18 and unmarried;
  • Younger than 19 and enrolled full-time in a secondary school; or
  • Disabled and the disability started before age 22.

Each child is eligible to receive payments that are worth as much as 50 percent of the disabled parent’s SSDI benefits. However, the total value of the disabled parent’s benefits and the children’s benefits cannot exceed 180 percent of the disabled parent’s original benefits. Thus, if you have two dependent children, they cannot both receive payments that are worth 50 percent of your benefits.

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