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Posted on in Child Support

St. Charles family law attorneyParents who get divorced will need to address a variety of issues related to financial support for their children. While both parents are expected to contribute financially to their children’s needs, understanding exactly what is covered by child support can sometimes be a complex matter. By working with an attorney to understand how the law applies in their situation, parents can ensure that their children will have the necessary financial resources, while also making sure they will have the means to support themselves.

Basic Child Support and Additional Child-Related Expenses

In Illinois, parents’ child support obligations are determined using a method that takes both parents’ incomes into consideration. The law details a method of calculating what is known as the “basic child support obligation.” This amount is meant to represent the regular, ongoing expenses that parents would have paid for their children if they were still married.

Each parent is required to pay a portion of the basic child support obligation, but rather than dividing this amount in half, it is allocated based on each parent’s percentage of their combined income. This basic obligation is meant to address children’s ongoing, daily needs. That is, it will cover living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments and utilities for the home where the children live the majority of the time, as well as children’s food and clothing.

Kane County family law attorneyAlthough the most commonly known method of collecting child support is through a court order as part of the Illinois divorce process, there are actually two ways of petitioning to collect child support. The first, as previously mentioned, is through an Illinois court. The second is by filing with the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).

If you are a parent of a child and you are attempting to collect child support, read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of using DCSS to assist you, as well as how hiring a skilled child support attorney can help.

How Can DCSS Help Me Collect Child Support?

One major advantage of DCSS is that its services are free. These services include, but are not limited to:

Kane County family law attorneyChild support can be difficult to negotiate for parents who are no longer in a relationship. Even after a child support plan is put in place, the parent who is responsible for paying child support may purposely or accidentally halt payments. Regardless of the reason for stopping child support payments, the receiving parent and child(ren) are put in a difficult situation when they cannot get the financial support they need. If the paying parent has stopped making payments, you have options to get the child support you need.

Work Directly With the Paying Parent

Try to work things out with the delinquent co-parent. Do not seek to withhold parenting time from the spouse who is delinquent on payments, or otherwise seek revenge. Even if there is an enforceable court order, co-parents may be able to work something out together. If it does come to a court battle, do not jeopardize your case by neglecting your responsibilities under the child visitation order.

Work with the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS)

You may also notify the Illinois Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). After you notify DCSS of the delinquent payments, DCSS will begin to oversee the situation and verify that the payments are late. Be aware that before DCSS can take any action regarding the delinquent child support, they are obligated to notify the non-compliant parent and warn them about the consequences of nonpayment. 

St. Charles IL family lawyerParental financial support doesn’t necessarily end when a child turns 18. Although college may not be an option every child pursues, if a child does decide to go to college, divorced and unmarried parents could be responsible under Illinois law for sharing the expense of their child’s continued education. This is considered “non-minor support,” and the law in this regard is complex and less developed than child support for minor children. Typically, college expenses are addressed in a divorce agreement (or parenting agreement, for non-married parents), but as the expenses and expectations of college change rapidly, such an agreement is often left until the child reaches college age.

Considerations in an Order for College-Related Expenses

Here are some of the factors a court will take into account when deciding how parents should contribute to a child’s educational expenses:

  • Pre-college expenses - Parents are responsible for covering the cost of applying to up to five colleges and up to two standardized college entrance exams like the ACT or the SAT. Parents may even be required to pay for a college exam preparatory course.

Kane County family law attorneyEven after taking all of the necessary steps to ensure a child support order that accounts for all of your children’s needs, things can change. After all, it has been said the only constant thing in life is change. When your child’s needs or your financial situation has changed, you can request a review of your child support order to determine whether a modification is necessary. A judge will usually only find a modification necessary if they determine that a “substantial change in circumstances” has occurred. But what does that actually mean? Understanding what the court considers a substantial change in circumstances can help you determine whether or not you should request a modification to your child support order.

How Are “Substantial Changes in Circumstances” Determined?

Unlike many other things in family law cases, Illinois does not actually provide a definition for a “substantial change in circumstances.” This means that this is left up to interpretation by the judge or agency conducting the modification review. In most cases, a substantial change in circumstances means that the situation has changed since the original child support order was entered and that the change is significant enough to warrant a review of the order and a potential change in the amount of support paid.

Examples of Substantial Changes in Circumstances

There are various reasons why you may need to change your child support order. Under normal circumstances, a child support order is only eligible for review every three years, unless you can prove that there has been a change in your child’s needs or either parent’s financial situation. For example, common situations in which a change may be warranted include:

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