It’s a sad fact of life that relationships sometimes end. When two people simply cannot make things work, it may be best for them to just go their separate ways. If a couple is childless and owns little joint property, their split is relatively easy, and they can both just walk away to start new chapters in their lives. If there are children involved, however, things are much more complicated.

When children are caught in the middle of the end of their parents’ relationship, the goal of both parents should be to minimize the impact of the split on the children. This can mean letting the children remain in the marital (or cohabitating) home, keeping the children in the same school and allowing them to live at approximately the same standard of living to which they have grown accustomed.

With the parents now supporting two separate households instead of pooling their finances, this can be challenging. Luckily, the law provides a way to ensure that children have the economic resources they need: child support.

Determining if child support is appropriate

Once a child custody arrangement has been established, an Illinois family court judge can then move on to determining if child support is appropriate. To do this, the judge looks at the totality of the family’s circumstances and makes a decision about whether child support is in the best interests of the child or children involved.

If the judge, after careful consideration, determines that a child support award would indeed be appropriate, then it is necessary to calculate the amount of that award. Illinois law provides guidance about this issue by establishing a guideline amount, set forth in 750 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/505(a)(1). Pursuant to the statute, the base amount of child support for a single child is 20 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net monthly income. The amount increases to 28 percent for two children, 32 percent for three children and so on, to a maximum of 50 percent of the non-custodial parent’s net monthly income for six or more children.

Setting a different support amount

It is important to note that these are just guidelines, and do not mandate that child support be immediately set at these levels. Judges have the discretion to make downward or upward departures from the guidelines. In order to make a deviation, though, the judge must carefully determine if a departure is appropriate by analyzing a number of different factors (set forth in 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2)). These include:

Financial resources and needs of the child
Financial resources and needs of the custodial parent
Standard of living the child is accustomed to
Physical and mental condition of the child (including special needs the child may have that require additional attention and financial support)
Age of the child
Educational needs of the child (including added expenses like private or parochial school, extracurricular activities and tutoring, if applicable)
Financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent from whom payments are being sought
Still have questions?

While this article has provided a great deal of information about the Illinois child support process, it is certainly not inclusive. For additional information about seeking child support payments or contesting a request made by your child’s custodial parent, speak with a qualified family law attorney today.