Who Pays for Summer Childcare Under the Income Shares Model?
By: M. Scott Gordon
Illinois law has changed when it comes to child support. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the state now uses an “income shares” model that takes into account the income of both parents when determining the total child support obligation. While Illinois courts tend to allocate parental responsibilities in such a way that both parents share parenting time—or spending physical time with the child and providing caretaking function—parents may not share parenting time equally, or 50/50. Accordingly, the income shares model allows courts to apportion child support obligations based on the number of nights the child spends with each parent per year.
The total amount of time the child spends with each parent, including where the child spends his or her summer, can be a factor in determining who pays for summer childcare in the Chicago area. At the same time, if the parents anticipate a need for summer childcare when the court determines both parents’ child support obligations, the Court can set each parent’s obligation to pay for child care in addition to “regular” child support. And finally, if a summer childcare need arises after the divorce, a parent may be able to seek a modification. All of these issues can play a role in determining who pays for summer childcare. We will discuss each of them briefly.
Determining Child Care Obligations Under the Guidelines
If parents equally share parenting time, or come quite close to sharing parenting time, the court may determine there is no need to consider child care expenses separately – given each parent is responsible for child care expenses during the nights a particular parent has the child. Assuming both parents share parenting time over a child’s summer vacation, parents may simply each provide for those summer child care expenses during the overnights and there may be no need to deviate from the child support guidelines.
But what happens in situations where one parent typically has the child for a longer period of time over the summer, such as in family situations where one parent lives a great distance away? In such a case, the court may apportion the obligation to pay for child care based upon each parent’s income.
New Child Support Model Allows Court to Consider Matters Like Childcare Expenses
The statute expressly states courts can deviate from child support guidelines under a variety of conditions. One of those situations is where there are particular “child care expenses.” The statute clarifies that the court may also order the parents that owe a duty of support to contribute to the child care expenses of the child. The parent owing child care expenses can pay them directly to the other parent, or to the child care provider.
The statute defines child care expenses as expenses reasonably necessary to enable a parent to stay employed, to attend educational programs to improve employment opportunities, or to look for a job. When a court does deviate from the guidelines to consider child care expenses, the statute clarifies these expenses will be prorated in proportion to each parent’s share of combined income, and may be added to the basic support obligation.
In situations where there was not an initial need for child care expenses to be allocated, a parent can seek a modification of the child support obligations, asking the court to deviate from the guidelines in order to determine an appropriate amount of summer childcare.
Contact a Chicago Child Support Lawyer
If you have questions about childcare expenses or deviating from the guidelines, a Chicago child support attorney can discuss your situation with you. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information about our family law services.