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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:

St. Charles family law attorneyParents have a legal responsibility to provide financial support to their children. In Illinois, child support obligations are calculated based on state guidelines that look primarily at each parent’s income. While these guidelines work well in many cases, there are exceptions. One possible exception is a case in which a parent’s actual income differs substantially from what they could be earning.

Imputed Income Explained

Whenever reasonable, the Illinois child support calculation will account for each parent’s actual income at the time when the order is established. This helps to ensure a fair and equitable result, and it often provides protection for a parent with few financial resources. However, in some cases, a parent’s actual current income is misleading given their financial resources or their ability to earn. Under these circumstances, the court may decide to use imputed or potential income in the calculation instead.

The Illinois Supreme Court case of In re Marriage of Gosney provides an instructive example of how state courts use the concept of imputed income in child support cases. In reviewing and evaluating the relevant case law, the Illinois Supreme Court found that there are three specific circumstances in which courts can “impute” income to a parent for the purposes of a child support calculation:

Posted on in Child Custody

St. Charles IL family law attorneyAs a father, you play a critically important role in your child’s life. At the same time, fathers face some unique challenges in custody and visitation cases. You may be wondering: Can a father seek sole custody in Illinois? The answer is a clear “yes”—a father has just as much right to seek custody as a mother. Nonetheless, the United States Census Bureau reports that it is significantly more common for mothers to have primary custody than fathers. Here is an overview of the most important things dads should know about their parental rights in Illinois.

A Father Must Establish Parentage to Have Rights

As a starting point, a father must establish legal parentage. Without paternity, a man has no access to parental rights. Paternity is simply defined as the legal relationship between a father and a child. How exactly paternity is best established depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

For married men, paternity is straightforward. You are automatically assumed to be the father of your wife’s child. No action is required under Illinois law to establish legal paternity. Married fathers have paternity rights as soon as their child is born. On the other hand, unmarried men can face some additional challenges. If there is no dispute over parentage, a Voluntary Acknowledgment form submitted jointly with the child’s mother is sufficient. However, in other cases, a father may need to seek a paternity order.

St. Charles family law attorneyOnce your divorce is wrapped up, you and your family will embark on new journeys and a brand new way of life. When you and your ex-spouse share children, arrangements for parenting time and the allocation of parental responsibilities must be made, resulting in new routines and a lifestyle that you and your children were not previously accustomed to before the divorce. While these new arrangements can take some getting used to, they often result in happier, healthier homes and habits for you and your children.

Depending on your family situation, however, you may wish to take other people into consideration, such as grandparents, mentors, and close family friends.  Who will have visitation rights, and what will those rights look like? How will you determine which non-parents will spend time with your children, and how will you negotiate those parameters?

Non-Parent Involvement

If the visitation rights of non-parents are not addressed in the parenting plan, they can be granted by the court using the following guidelines:

Kane County family lawyerWhile fathers have always played an important role in the upbringing and development of children, they have not always been treated as such by the courts. This was often due to the assignment of traditional gender roles. Further, it was originally thought that the mother was more critical than the father was in the child’s early years. Yet, as time passed, fathers began to gain important recognition in the lives of their children. The composition of families also started to change. Now, there are fathers who stay home with their children while the mothers work outside of the home. Does this necessarily affect the allocation of parental responsibilities or assignment of parenting time in divorce though?

How Child-Related Matters Are Determined

In Illinois, divorcing parents are encouraged to negotiate an agreement regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities and the parenting time details of their case. Generally, this offers numerous benefits for families, including the freedom to create a parenting plan that is tailored to meet their family’s specific needs. For example, if the couple feels the child and family would benefit most from the father receiving a greater allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time because he works from home, they could create and agree upon a parenting plan that reflects this decision.

Not all divorcing couples are able to agree upon child-related matters, however. Further, not all families should attempt direct negotiations, such as in situations involving domestic violence. In these cases, the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time are decided by the courts. To make this determination, the judge will look at a number of factors to determine the best interests of the child, including:

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