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Determining Chicago Child Support Payments

What’s Fair in Determining Child Support Payments?

By M. Scott Gordon

A recent Bloomberg news column does a good job of exploring the complex problems surrounding child support laws. On the one hand, laws are rightfully in place to discourage bad parenting and “deadbeat dads.” On the other, many parents are unduly caught up in punishing penalties and burdensome payments, unable to get ahead and improve their lives as a result.

Whether you stand to pay or receive support in a divorce, it is critical to maintain fairness and accuracy throughout the process. While Illinois has relatively clear guidelines for establishing child support payments, judgments in many cases are still heavily situation-dependent. Knowing where you stand, your obligations, and your entitlements is key to a fair and sound judgment.

The Purpose of Child Support

While the reason for child support may seem obvious, it can help to think about the underlying philosophy when considering fair payments in your own divorce case. Child support is fundamentally designed to provide for a child’s basic needs. A parent is responsible for securing food, shelter, and clothing for a child. In the modern world, these basic needs can take more complex forms, such as daycare, medical care, and education-related expenses.

How Payments are Determined

In Illinois, designated child support payments are typically based upon two factors: the number of children and net income:

  • Number of children: The more children a parent has, the more child support that will need to be paid. Payments as a percentage of net income go up with each child, starting at 20 percent of net income for one child up to a maximum of 50 percent for six children or more.
  • Net income: Payments are drawn from net income, or total income after accounting for all deductions. These deductions include taxes, Social Security payments, required retirement payments, union dues, health insurance premiums, and previous support payments.

The court will very rarely deviate from the above guidelines, so it is important that your attorney properly accounts for all income and deductions to ensure an accurate payment.

Where Things Get Complicated

While the system in place is seemingly straightforward, things can become decidedly more complex for parents who do not have a consistent income from month to month. This can include unemployed or intermittently employed parents, self-employed parents, or parents with work-related disabilities. In these cases, the court will typically attempt to average net income over time, designating a payment based upon this figure. Whether you are seeking child support or will be paying, it is critical for your attorney to understand all sources of income and possible deductions to ensure that your rights are protected.
Child support is a serious matter that can impact your finances over the long term. For help sorting through this critical aspect of divorce, contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates. From our Skokie and Chicago offices, we help people throughout the Chicago area move on through the divorce process.