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Reasons to Contest a Child Support Modification RequestEither parent in a child support agreement is allowed to request a modification to increase or decrease the monthly payments. Co-parents often disagree on whether a modification should be allowed, and the parent who is requesting the modification bears the burden of proving their case. The court will consider the request if three years have passed since the agreement was created or last modified or if there has been a significant change in circumstances for either parent. A parent who claims a reduction in their income can request that their child support payments be reduced or that their co-parent’s payments be increased. However, the court may still reject the modification depending on the circumstances:

  1. Voluntary Unemployment: A parent cannot claim a change of circumstances if they voluntarily quit their job or took a significant pay cut. Even if they involuntarily lost their job, they must make a good faith effort to find new employment within a reasonable amount of time. A parent who is capable of working cannot forgo employment and expect their co-parent to cover the child-related expenses for an indefinite period.
  2. Not a Significant Change: A minor reduction in income does not mean that a parent is no longer capable of making the same child support payments. The court will expect the parent to try to continue paying their share of child support by dipping into their disposable income before it orders the other parent to contribute more child support.
  3. Optional Expenditures: When a parent makes questionable or unnecessary purchases, they may be using money that should have gone towards child support. Using their budget on luxury expenses is not a good reason for a parent to try to modify child support.
  4. Bankruptcy: Filing for bankruptcy is a significant change in financial circumstances but does not necessarily mean that child support payments should be modified. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the parent’s monthly income should not change, meaning they can still afford child support. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, part of the parent’s income is going towards a long-term repayment plan. Child support payments are a priority in the repayment plan, and the court will decide whether the support amount should be modified to accommodate the repayment plan.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

When considering a modification to child support, the most important factor is whether the children’s needs are being met. A Naperville, Illinois, divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., will work on your behalf to modify child support payments or contest an unnecessary modification. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.

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Illinois Court Questions Law Requiring Divorced Parents to Pay for CollegeThe Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a portion of the state’s divorce law that can order both parents to help pay for a child’s college education, in response to a circuit court judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional. The circuit court judge had decided that forcing a divorced parent to contribute to college expenses is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which promises equal protection under state laws. Rather than argue the merit of the claim, the supreme court said that the circuit court judge lacked the authority to strike down the law because the supreme court had previously ruled that the law was constitutional. Only the supreme court has the authority to overturn that ruling, it said.

College Expenses

The law in question is Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which states that courts may order divorced parents to use their assets and incomes to pay for a child’s post-high school education. Expenses may include:

  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Books and supplies
  • Reasonable living expenses
  • Medical expenses

Divorced parents can share these expenses by allocating assets in their divorce agreement towards paying for college or continuing child support payments until the child graduates with a bachelor’s degree or turns 23, whichever happens first. The age deadline can be extended to 25 if good cause is shown. Continued child support payments may be dependent upon the child’s academic performance.

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Understanding Illinois’ Shared Parenting Child Support FormulaIllinois calculates the child support payments that one parent owes the other by using an income shares table. To determine your child support payments, you would start by adding up the combined net incomes of yourself and your co-parent. Each row in the income shares table has an income range. When you find the row where your combined incomes fall, you will go across to the column for the number of children you share. The number you see is the base level of the combined child support obligation that you must pay together each month.

Your proportionate incomes will determine the share of the child support obligation that each of you are responsible for. If your income is 60 percent of your combined incomes, then you are responsible for 60 percent of the child support obligation. The nonresidential parent is typically the one who pays child support to the residential parent, even if they have a lower income. The formula for determining the payment amount changes when parents have a shared parenting arrangement.

Shared Parenting Formula

Illinois defines shared parenting as a parenting schedule in which each parent has the children overnight at least 146 times per year, which would be a 60-40 division of parenting time. The formula for calculating child support in a shared parenting arrangement is more complicated than the basic formula:

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Remarriage Can Affect Child Support PaymentsParents who divorce are required to create a child support agreement in order to share the cost of child-related expenses. Illinois currently uses an income shares model that determines how much each parent should pay based on their proportionate incomes. If a parent’s income makes up 70 percent of their combined incomes, that parent will pay 70 percent of the child support obligation. Either parent can request a modification of the child support order, based on a significant change of circumstances, such as: 

  • A change in a parent’s income;
  • A change in the expense of raising a child; or
  • A child becoming a nondependent.

In certain situations, child support may be modified when one parent remarries.

Available Income

Illinois will not include the income of a new spouse when calculating a parent’s child support obligation. A stepparent is not required to financially support a child, and combining the incomes of a biological parent and stepparent would effectively force the stepparent to do so. A new spouse could affect a parent’s ability to pay their child support obligation. A parent may claim that a child support obligation is unreasonable if it does not leave them with enough money to pay for their own living expenses. Illinois courts have the discretion to deviate from the child support formula to create affordable payments. Remarriage changes a parent’s available income because spouses will combine their incomes and share their expenses. A new spouse could pay for a parent’s living expenses, freeing the parent’s income for other expenses. In such a situation, the other parent could request that the remarried parent pay child support based on the normal calculation.

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Determining Child Support With an Inconsistent IncomeIllinois calculates the percentage of child support that each parent owes based on their comparative net incomes. The parent who earns a greater income will pay a proportionate share of the child-related expenses. However, child support can be more complicated when one of the parents has an income that varies by month, due to:

  • Working overtime;
  • Receiving bonuses; or
  • Working for a commission.

Extra pay is part of a parent’s net income but usually not included in the child support calculations. How do you ensure that your co-parent is paying a fair amount of child support when he or she cannot give a consistent monthly income? There are three methods of dealing with this:

  1. Calculating the Average: You can add your co-parent’s income from a period of several months and determine his or her average income, which becomes the basis for the child support payments. This is the simplest method because you are establishing a consistent income amount. However, it can be the least accurate depending on how much your co-parent’s income fluctuates. You may need to revisit your child support payments if his or her monthly income greatly deviates from the past average.
  2. Monthly Supplements: Your co-parent may have a base wage that he or she receives each month. You can use that amount as your co-parent’s base monthly income and supplement it each month with any additional pay that he or she receives. This method requires more work because your co-parent must submit his or her pay statements each month. Your child support contributions will reflect your respective incomes, but you are trusting that your co-parent is providing you with accurate information.
  3. True-Up: You can use the third method in conjunction with either of the first two methods. With a true-up, your co-parent provides the pay statements and W-2 income form from the previous year to determine what he or she should have paid in child support for that period. If your co-parent underpaid you, he or she must reimburse the difference. If your co-parent overpaid you, he or she will receive a credit towards future child support payments. You and your co-parent must have a good level of communication and trust for this method to work.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

Illinois determines your child support obligation based on the expected cost of raising your children. Allowing your co-parent to exclude income is taking resources away from your children. A Warrenville, Illinois, divorce lawyer at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can make sure that your co-parent is contributing an appropriate amount to your parenting expenses. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111. 

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