Child Support

Child Support

State courts calculate child support in a couple of ways. Under the older model (“percentage of net income” model), child support is based on a percentage of the paying parent’s net income. In 2017, Illinois joined 40 other states and territories that use a more nuanced model called the “income shares” model.

The Illinois “Income Shares” Model for Child Support

State courts calculate child support in a couple of ways. Under the older model (“percentage of net income” model), child support is based on a percentage of the paying parent’s net income. In 2017, Illinois joined 40 other states and territories that use a more nuanced model called the “income shares” model. This model considers what both parents earn, the percentage of each parent’s income in relation to the total combined household income, and the amount of overnights spent by each parent with the child. The “percentage of net income” model still applies in cases decided prior to 2017, if child support was set under the old model. However, if there is a substantial change in circumstance, the Court usually applies the new income shares model, often resulting in lower child support payments.

 

Using the income shares model, child support is computed by:

  • Computing each parent’s net income (depending on the specific case, net income is either determined by referring to the Illinois state created gross to net income conversion chart or using the parent’s actual tax returns);
  • Combining both parents’ net incomes to determine the total household net income;
  • Determining each parent’s percentage of net income in relation to the total household net income;
  • Determining the basic child support obligation based on the total household net income and the number of children by referring to the income shares chart. (The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has created a chart which shows the basic child support obligation the State considers necessary to support a child (or 2 or more children) based upon the total household income, taking into account statistics from the Illinois Bureau of Labor);
  • Multiplying each parent’s percentage of net income by the basic child support obligation to determine each parent’s child support obligation; and
  • The parent with the majority of parenting time receives the basic child support from the parent without the majority of parenting time. The child support obligation “owed” by the parent with the majority of parenting time is presumably paid by said parent in the everyday expenses the parent incurs for the child.

 

For example:

  • Let’s assume Mom’s net income is $2,000 per month and Dad’s net income is $10,000 per month;
  • The total household net income is $12,000 per month ($2,000 + $10,000);
  • Mom’s percentage of net income is 16.7% ($2,000/$12,000). Dad’s percentage of net income is 83.3% ($10,000/$12,000).
  • The income shares chart indicates that with a total household net income of $12,000, the basic child support for one child is $1,609 per month;
  • Mom’s child support obligation is $268.70 ($1,609 x 16.7%) and Dad’s child support obligation is $1,340.30 ($1,609 x 83.3%);
  • If Mom has the majority of parenting time, Dad pays Mom $1,340.30 per month.

 

The basic child support obligation is meant to cover the child’s basic living expenses (i.e. food, clothing, and shelter). In addition to the basic child support obligation, parents are also required to contribute to health insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical expenses, child care and extracurricular activities in proportion to each parent’s respective income (i.e. their respective percentages of net income).

 

Using the example above, Dad is responsible for 83.3% and Mom is responsible for 16.7% of the child-related expenses.

 

If both parents exercise 146 or more overnights per year, the child support calculation changes to account for the more equalized parenting time schedule. In fact, the calculation becomes so complicated that lawyers and courts usually use computer programs to do the calculation.

 

To calculate the shared care child support obligation, follow steps (1-4) above, then:

  • The basic child support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 to calculate the shared care child support obligation;
  • Multiplying each parent’s percentage of net income by the shared care child support obligation to determine each parent’s shared care child support obligation; and
  • The parent who owes more child support pays the difference between the parent’s respective shared care child support obligations.

 

The court awards child support using these guidelines unless the court makes specific findings that the guidelines would be inappropriate considering the best interests of the child. The “income shares” approach suffers from the conformity imposed by routine, as courts now rarely deviate from these guidelines.

 

Beware Of These Issues in Child Support:

  • Combined Gross Income Higher than $500,000 Annually: The basic child support obligation chart only displays the basic child support obligation for households with a combined net income of approximately $360,000 (or approximately $500,000 combined gross income). In such situations, the Court has discretion as to what it orders for child support. However, the Court cannot order an amount lower than the maximum amount indicated by the chart. In these situations, the Court is more likely to look at the needs and expenses of the children.
  • Maintenance: When one parent is paying maintenance to the other parent, the maintenance is subtracted from the payor’s net income and added to the payee’s net income;
  • Imputing Income: If a parent is voluntarily unemployed, underemployed or their income is difficult to determine, child support can be “imputed” or based on income the unemployed or underemployed parent could reasonably earn.

 

© 2019 Jennifer S. Tier for Feinberg Sharma, P.C.