Both parents have a legal obligation to provide for their child’s essential needs. When parents of a child or multiple children are no longer together, one or both may petition their local family court or their state child support enforcement agency to order the other to pay child support.
Child support is supposed to cover the child’s necessities and reasonable expenses.

Child support expenses can include the following:

  • Housing;
  • Food;
  • Clothing and shoes;
  • Medical Care;
    • Including payment of any medical premiums if the family does not qualify for Medicaid; and
    • Payments for any ongoing medical conditions such as prescriptions or equipment.
  • Childcare, including daycare and after school programs;
  • Educational expenses such as books, backpack, pencils, etc.;
  • Transportation; or
  • Extracurricular activities, including summer camps, may also be considered.

Have There Been Any Changes to the State of Illinois Child Support Determinations?

In 2017, Illinois made some changes to the method or formula that the court system uses to determine a parent’s child support obligation. The significant change that occurred involved using the recipient parent’s net income.

Before the change, the courts calculated child support based on the paying parent’s net income and the number of children the paying parent is accountable for. The reformed Illinois law now favors a shared incomes model in which both parents’ net income is considered in the formula.
This approach was intended to make child support determinations more equitable or fair rather than only looking at one parent’s income and responsibility.

How Do I Calculate My Child Support Obligation Based on the Current Method?

Due to the change in method, different factors determine your child support obligation:

  1. Determine the net income of each parent;
  2. Combine the net incomes of the parents;
  3. Use the income shares table (available on the Illinois state government site) to determine both parents’ basic child support obligations. The table provides amounts for up to six children;
  4. Add any additional or special expenses for that particular child. For instance, a child with a disability may have more costs than what is included in the basic child support table;
  5. Once you have the total monthly support obligation for both parents, determine the amount owed by each parent. Each parent will be accountable for an amount proportionate to their net income; parents who make more than the other will owe more; and
  6. Finally, consider the amount of time each parent spends with the child, usually defined as how many nights a year the child spends with that parent. Shared parenting is an equal number of nights, and situations where the child spends more nights with one parent increase the amount owed by the one who spends less time.

What Are the Expenses I can Deduct to Determine My Net Income for Child Support in Illinois?

Net income is the income you have after qualifying deductions. For child support, a parent can usually deduct the following expenses from their total or gross income to reach their net income:

  • Federal income tax;
  • State income tax;
  • Social security withholdings or payments;
  • Mandatory retirement contributions required by an employer or by law (Voluntary contributions are not considered);
  • Health insurance premiums for yourself and all dependents;
  • Prior or other court-ordered child and spousal support obligations that were actually paid; or
  • Other expenditures required to generate income.

Is There a Calculator That Can Help Me Estimate My Child Support Obligation?

Yes. The state of Illinois offers a free online calculator to provide an estimated child support amount. However, if you or the other parent has any unusual expenses or your child has particular needs, the calculator may not be as accurate.

The calculator uses what is typical for a standard family. Deviations from the standard child support may apply in your case if you have a unique situation.

The courts and the parents can deviate from the child support formula whenever circumstances call for it, so long as a result is that the child’s quality of life remains the same and each parent contributes to the care and costs associated with the child.

There are several statutory factors that the court is allowed to consider that may give rise to requesting a modification of the child support order:

  • The custodial parent’s income is higher than the non-custodial parent’s income;
  • One of the parents loses their job or has lost income from other sources through no fault of their own;
  • A child may need medical or mental health care that surpasses what child support can sufficiently account for;
  • The child’s standard of living can decrease because there is not enough child support coming to the custodial parent;
  • The costs of the custodial parent for housing or related expenses are significantly reduced based on their unique circumstances;
  • A parent who has to travel a long distance to complete visitation may be able to receive a reduction in the amount of support due;
  • There are extraordinary costs associated with the non-custodial parent’s visitation or parenting times and;
  • The parents share equally in custody and parenting time with the children.

Nevertheless, some deviations are not related to the actual payments of regular support but are related to the percentages each parent contributes to expenses and costs for the child. Usually, each parent’s adjusted gross income is compared, and each parent is then liable for that percentage of uncovered medical or daycare costs.

But in some circumstances, the judge may be able to order more or less child support, depending on what the child needs and other factors. In most states, if a judge makes a deviation of this nature, they may have to make a finding based on evidence. Thus, a deviation may only be granted when observing the standard child support guidelines and ensuring fair distribution by representing the child’s best interests.

Also, several different types of factors can influence a deviation. For upward deviations, some factors can include unusual necessary expenses, extraordinary health care expenses, special education expenses, medical expenses related to a child with disabilities, and high extracurricular costs. There are scenarios when the child support guidelines are only designed to work for families within a certain income bracket.

When the parents’ income exceeds a certain amount, this may also cause a deviation from the usual amount. As such, upward deviations are typically related to families with higher amounts of wealth or high expenses.

Do the Changes to the Child Support Calculation Automatically Change My Old Order?

No, the existence of the new method of calculation does not automatically change child support orders issued before the new legislation. Just as before, any parent wishing to increase or reduce a child support order needs to file a motion to modify their child support obligation.

It is essential to continue to make current payments timely until a court has modified the order. Modifications of child support have always been and will continue to be based on a substantial change in circumstances such as a remarriage, an increase in the parent’s income, or a new and substantial need of the child. Nevertheless, if the new guidelines substantially change the child support obligation, that may be enough to secure a modification.

Should I Consult a Lawyer About Calculating My Child Support in Illinois?

A local Illinois child support lawyer can help determine your exact child support obligation. They can also explain the most important modification factors in your local court. Having a lawyer represent you in a child support matter can help secure a fair child support order.