Old Child Support Law: The Guideline Method
Illinois formerly used a Flat Percentage Income Model to calculate child support. Under the old rules, child support calculations were based upon the percentage of the net income of the obligor (the parent who pays support) and the income of the custodial parent was generally not considered. This was changed with the adoption of the Income Share Approach in 2017.
New Child Support Law: The Income Share Approach
On July 1, 2017, Illinois adopted a new model to calculate child support. The new law utilizes an “income shares” model, which is based on the concept that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that he or she would have received if the parents remained together by utilizing a calculation that includes published data on child rearing costs and both parties’ incomes. There are several aspects to the income shares model to consider:
- Basic Child Support Obligation - Under the income shares model, a court must calculate child support based upon the parents’ combined adjusted net income, estimated to have been allocated to the child if the parents and children were living in an intact household. As such, there are predetermined child support payment amounts to be utilized based upon the parties’ combined net incomes. A schedule reflecting average child-rearing expenditures was established by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) for this purpose. The IDHFS has published resources on it's website including the Gross to Net Income Conversion Table and a Child Support Estimator.
- Shared Parenting - The new law allows adjustments to child support for “shared parenting” situations, which means situations where each parent has the child for at least 146 overnights per year. For this situation, basic child support is multiplied by 1.5 to account for additional basic costs to care for the child, including but not limited to: additional transportation, housing and food between the two residences. Then, both parties’ net incomes and the parenting time allocated to each parent is taken into account before determining the final child support obligation.
- Additional Expenses - These are “additional” support amounts on top of the basic child support obligation and can include amounts to cover the costs of extracurricular activities expenses, medical/health care expenses, education expenses and child care costs. If the parties cannot agree on an allocation of these expenses, a court has the discretion to order one or both parties to contribute to these items.
- Potential Deviations - There may be circumstances in a particular case that would warrant a deviation from the child support amount that is calculated under the new income shares model. This is where having a skilled litigator could mean a notable difference in the amount of support that is received or that is paid.