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St. Charles IL child support attorneyThere are currently about 2.3 million Americans incarcerated in the United States, approximately half of whom are parents. Furthermore, one in five has a monthly child support obligation. In most situations, this obligation simply remains unpaid, because for many, the small income that may be available for working within the jail or prison will not cover the costs. If the individual is serving an extended sentence, the unpaid support can accumulate to become an insurmountable debt. Throughout all of this, however, the children still need financial support from both parents.

Support Options for the Recipient Parent

If you are the parent to whom support payments are made and the other parent is currently incarcerated, his or her sentence does not automatically mean you are not eligible for payment. First, a child support order does not automatically stop due to incarceration. The only person who may modify a child support order is a judge through a modification hearing, which may be requested by either parent. Also, it is possible for inmates to make a payment due to having other income and assets available.

The court could also order the other parent to make payments from sources other than a job, including:

Choosing Your Method for Paying Child SupportChild support is mandatory for all divorces that include children. Whichever parent has a smaller share of parenting time will be required to pay monthly child support to the other parent. Illinois bases its child support amount on an income shares model that considers how much raising the children should cost and the comparative incomes of the parents. If you are the parent who is required to pay child support, you have multiple methods by which you can send the payments to your co-parent. It is important to use a dependable method so that the payments get to your co-parent without difficulty and there is a record that you are in compliance with your child support order.

What Are the Ways You Can Pay Child Support?

The method that you use to pay child support may depend on the type of job you have and your personal preference:

  • Withholding income is the preferred method for many because your employer will be responsible for deducting the child support amount from your pay and sending it to your co-parent.
  • If you are self-employed, you will need to send the payments electronically, by phone, or by mail.

Whether it is you or your employer, child support payments should be sent to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit (ISDU), who will transfer the payment to your co-parent. It is possible to pay child support directly to your co-parent, but sending payments through the ISDU ensures that the state knows that you are in compliance with your child support order.

How Much Child Support Do You Pay If You Become Unemployed?If you are one of the millions of Americans who have recently lost their jobs, you are understandably concerned about your ability to pay for living expenses. For some adults, child support is part of their monthly expenses. Fortunately, you do not have to continue paying the same amount towards child support if you have become unemployed. By requesting a modification of your child support payments, you can reduce your payments to something more manageable, though it is unlikely that you could ever get it reduced to nothing.

Changing Child Support

During a divorce or separation, Illinois calculates child support payments based on the parents’ comparative incomes. Your combined incomes help determine how much you both should be spending on child-related expenses each month, and your comparative incomes determine what percentage of those expenses you will each pay for. You can request an immediate modification of child support if you have a change of financial circumstances, such as losing your job. If the court grants your request, your child support payments will be reduced if you are the paying parent, or the payments you receive will increase if you are the recipient parent. There are a few conditions to the modification that you need to understand:

  • If your unemployment is voluntary, the court will calculate your income based on what you could potentially be earning and not your actual income.
  • You may need to make a good faith effort to find a new job in order for the court to consider your unemployment to be involuntary.
  • Child support payments can be reduced retroactively to the date that you filed your modification request but not the date you lost your job.
  • In many cases, child support will be paid to the parent with a majority of the parenting time, even if the recipient has a greater income than the payer. However, there may be situations in which the parent with a higher income and the majority of the parenting time pays child support to the other parent, including in some "shared physical care" situations where each parent has at least 40% of the parenting time.

What Counts As Income?

Though you have lost your job, you are still required to pay whatever child support you can afford. If you are receiving severance pay and/or unemployment benefits, that will count towards your income for the purpose of child support. If those income sources expire, you may still be expected to pay a minimum amount based on whatever savings you have to live on.

What Is Different About Receiving Child Support Through the State?There are two ways that you can petition to collect child support in Illinois. One way is to file the child support claim directly in court, often as part of a divorce case. The other way is to file with the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. A parent who receives public assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families must use the DCSS to receive child support, but any parent can apply for state child support services. Should you petition for the DCSS to handle your child support case? While there are some advantages to the state system, the disadvantages can make the process a pain.


The DCSS, with assistance from the Illinois Attorney General’s office, provides several free child support services, including:

  • Filing the court order for child support
  • Enforcing payment
  • Establishing paternity of the child
  • Locating a missing or unresponsive parent
  • Requesting that children be covered by a parent’s health insurance

The DCSS has several means of collecting child support and pressuring compliance from a parent who is not paying. They can deduct from the parent’s unemployment benefits, intercept their tax refunds, revoke their driver’s and professional licenses, deny their passports, and place liens on their properties.

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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