On July 1, 2017, Illinois changed its child support law to the nationally recognized Income Shares model. Illinois is now the 40th state (plus the District of Columbia) to adopt this method of determining child support.

From 1984 to 2017, Illinois determined child support amounts by using a percentage of the obligor parent’s net income without regard to the income of the recipient parent. This is no longer the case. Under the new Income Shares model, child support is calculated by considering the net incomes of both parents.

The Illinois legislature chose the Income Shares Model, in large part, because it theorized that using the parents’ combined net incomes is the best way of duplicating the way the parties allocated their earnings toward the support of their child(ren) when the parents and the child(ren) were living in an intact household.

Under this new method, the net incomes of both parents are added together. Once this total is known, the parties turn to the State of Illinois’ Schedule of Basic Support Obligation (which was created by an economic research institute and administered by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services – HFS). The Schedule (which is similar to the income tax table concept) shows the dollar amount that it costs each year to raise a child. This cost is determined by looking at the income level of the particular parents involved, and is derived from figures generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as adjusted for Illinois.

Child Support Lawyers

Once we know the dollar amount that it costs each year to raise a child (as determined by combining the net yearly incomes of these particular parents), a percentage is assigned to each parent reflecting their contribution to the total income. For example, if the parties’ combined yearly net incomes total
$200,000, and the husband earns 80% of that amount, and the wife earns 20%, the court uses these same percentages to assign how much child support each parent is responsible to pay. In this case, the husband would pay 80% and the wife would pay 20% of the dollar amount that the Schedule says it costs to raise a child at their combined total income level.

In determining what each party’s net income is, any maintenance (alimony or spousal support) that is paid to one of the spouses is deducted from the income of the party who pays the maintenance. The maintenance that is paid to the recipient spouse is added to his/her net income. In addition, spousal maintenance paid to a prior spouse will also be subtracted from the payor spouse’s income, and spousal support received from a previous spouse must be included as income to the recipient spouse.

The parent with the majority of parenting time does not actually pay his/her percentage share to the other parent. Rather, he/she keeps it to be spent directly of the child(ren).

Special rules come into play when one of the parents is already paying support for children of a prior relationship, whether the payments are voluntary or court ordered. This is referred to as the Multiple Family Adjustment.

The Income Shares model also takes into account the amount of parenting time that each parent has with the child(ren) each year. If each parent exercises 146 or more overnights per year with the child(ren), the basic child support dollar amount (as shown on the Schedule) is multiplied by 1.5% to calculate the shared child care child support obligation. Each parent’s share is then computed by multiplying that parent’s portion of the shared care support obligation by the percentage of time the child(ren) spend with the other parent. The respective child support obligations are then offset, with the parent owing more child support paying the difference between the two amounts. The 1.5% factor does not come into play if one of the parties has the child(ren) less than 146 overnights per year.

It is suggested that the legislature selected 146 overnights per year (as opposed to any other number) because 146 overnights represents 40% of the 365 possible overnights each year.

NOTE: The statute allows judges to deviate downwards from the maintenance and / or child support guidelines when the Obligor’s total maintenance and child support obligations would exceed 50% of the Obligor’s net income.

If you find the above explanation to be complicated and confusing, you are not alone. Most everyone finds it very difficult to comprehend. In fact, most divorce lawyers and judges rely on special software to do these calculations.

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Kari and Richard are staunch advocates of the non-court approach to divorce, and are also active and seasoned litigators with over 80 years of combined trial experience in the Illinois divorce courts of Cook and DuPage counties.