This is a complete guide to child support in Illinois. We’ll cover:
- How child support is determined in Illinois
- How health insurance is considered
- When child support ends
- How to ask for child support
- Establishing paternity
- Enforcing a child support order
- Modifying child support orders
- Child support and taxes
- How to get help with child support
Illinois Child Support Overview
Each parent is required to support their minor children in Illinois. However, in most divorce cases, the child’s residential parent is entitled to support from the non-custodial parent. The custodial parent is the person where the child lives most of the time (primary physical custody) as determined by the parents or the courts.
Child support is awarded to offset the burden of child-related costs and maintain consistency in the children’s standard of living as they move between two homes.
The state assumes that the parent with primary physical custody of the children will spend that money directly on the child.
How is Child Support Determined in Illinois?
You can use the Illinois Child Support Estimator to calculate an estimated amount of support that would apply in your case. This will give you a general idea of what you can expect to pay based on the numbers you enter.
However, as the name indicates, this is not an actual “calculator.” Instead, it’s meant to give you a general idea of the support amount based on the numbers you enter.
For a more precise child support calculation, use the worksheet and tables on the Illinois Child Support Guidelines-Income Shares website.
Generally, the amount of child support is determined by a standardized income table as well as the number of children born to the parties, the incomes of both parents, and the allocation of parenting time.
Illinois uses the Income Shares Model to establish amounts and obligations. You’ll need to calculate each parent’s net income (as outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act). After calculating gross income from all sources, you’ll either use the conversion table for standardized net income or calculate individualized net income based on your deductions.
Then, you’ll apply adjustments to net incomes, which is used when one or both parents support children from other relationships. There might also be an adjustment for spousal maintenance (alimony) payments.
Next, you’ll need to factor in your child support obligation. The Income Shares Schedule shows the total basic amount of child support based on the parents’ combined adjusted net income. Each parent’s contribution toward that total amount is then based on their share (as a percentage) of the combined net income.
Under the Income-Shares model, Illinois courts consider that the typical costs of raising a child for a family should resemble the income level that would have been in place had the parents involved in each case stayed together.
To establish a child support order in Illinois, the amount of child support considered for the order depends on the non-custodial parent’s net income and the number of children they are responsible for.
The guidelines below are applied to each case unless the court finds that the amount determined in the guidelines is inappropriate after considering the child’s best interests.
- 1 child: 20% of the supporting party’s net income
- 2 children: 28% of the supporting party’s net income
- 3 children: 32% of the supporting party’s net income
- 4 children: 40% of the supporting party’s net income
- 5 children: 45% of the supporting party’s net income
- 6 or more: 50% of the supporting party’s net income
How does shared custody impact the child support calculation in Illinois?
The Illinois child support guidelines account for shared physical custody when each parent has the children for a significant amount of time can result in increased costs. For example, both parents must provide bedrooms and other basics for the children.
Illinois provides a separate worksheet for calculating child support when each parent has the child for at least 146 nights during the year. In these situations, the total basic support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 (or 150%).
Illinois also has a way to calculate support when the parents split physical custody of more than one child.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Beginning January 1st, 2022, Illinois law requires that any court action determining child support must include a component that maintains or requires a parent to obtain health insurance for all children.
The health insurance for the child or children may be public health insurance such as Medicaid or private health insurance.
When Does Child Support End in Illinois?
In most cases, Illinois child support ends when the child turns 18 or is emancipated. If the child is still in high school, support ends when the child graduates or turns 19, whichever happens first.
Parents can agree, or a judge may order that some form of child support will continue beyond those thresholds. For example, support may continue while a child attends college or university.
Judges may also order support for adult children who are mentally or physically disabled and aren’t able to support themselves. In those cases, judges may order that the support be paid from either or both parent’s income, property, or estate.
After a child reaches the age of majority or emancipates, DCSS will continue to collect on the past due child support through income withholding and special collection remedies.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
You can request child support assistance by enrolling online or by completing the PDF version of the application. You also can visit a local regional office or contact the child support call center at 1-800-447-4278.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Illinois
Factors that May Impact Child Support
Basic child support is established by considering:
- The number of children who are the subject of the pending action
- Income of the non-custodial parent
- Cost of family health insurance paid by the non-custodial parent
- Amount of child support paid by the non-custodial parent for children from a previous marriage
- Amount of alimony paid by the non-custodial parent to a spouse from a prior marriage
After a basic amount is established, if the court finds that application of the Illinois statutory child support guidelines would be unfair, unjust, inequitable, and not in the best interest of the child or children, changes can be ordered for expenses such as:
- health insurance coverage
- unreimbursed health care expenses
- child care
- extraordinary medical or educational expenses
- extraordinary extracurricular activities
- life insurance to ensure that there will be money for the child if one of the parents dies
The court will look at the following factors when deciding if deviating from the guideline formula.
- The monetary needs and monetary resources of the child or children.
- The monetary needs and monetary resources of the parents.
- The lifestyle the child or children would have enjoyed had the divorce not been executed.
- The mental, emotional and physical condition of the child or children.
What if a non-custodial parent lives out of state?
DCSS works cooperatively with other states to enforce child support orders. DCSS can collect child support even if a parent lives in another state. If you have a new address or employment information for the parent, please supply this information through your online account on the DCSS website or by contacting the call center at 1-800-447-4278 or by calling 1-888-245-1938.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Alimony
It is crucial for children to know both of their parents, but this can be somewhat complicated if parents are not married when a baby is born.
If the parents of a child are not married or in a civil union when the child is born, the father is not considered the child’s legal father, even if the parents live together and plan to be married. His name cannot be added to the birth certificate until paternity is established.
Establishing paternity is the critical first step in collecting child support. When legal paternity is established, a child has the right to the father’s Social Security or veteran’s benefits, medical coverage, pensions, genetic information, and inheritance.
There are three ways to establish paternity:
- Both parents complete, sign, and have a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form witnessed and filed with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
- An Administrative Paternity Order is established and entered by Child Support Services
- An Order of Paternity is established and entered in court judicially.
Both parents must sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) form to establish paternity without going to court.
Parents who do not sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (Form HFS 3416B) at the hospital may sign it later at any local registrar of vital records, county clerk’s office, local Department of Human Services office, or child support services office.
The form can also be completed and mailed to:
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services
Administrative Coordination Unit
110 West Lawrence
Springfield, IL 62701
Paternity can also be established by genetic testing. A paternity test compares the DNA of the child, mother, and alleged father to determine whether he is the biological father of a child.
Paternity tests are simple and accurate. A DNA sample is obtained by swabbing the inside of a person’s cheek. DCSS can assist in completing the appropriate forms and scheduling paternity tests.
Enforcing a Child Support Order
Child support must always be paid, and when a parent does not meet this legal obligation, they may face penalties. Some of these enforcement actions include:
- Criminal Prosecution. A paying parent can be subject to a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a sentence of up to one year in jail for failing to pay child support. If a paying parent fails to pay child support for a second time, leaves Illinois with the intent of not paying child support, fails to pay child support for 6 months or more, or owes over $10K in back child support, the parent will face a Class 4 felony which carries a sentence up to 3 years in jail.
- Contempt of Court. A parent with a child support obligation who does not pay can be held in contempt of court, resulting in jail time for up to 6 months.
- Wage Garnishment. A parent can request DCSS to have the paying parents’ income taken from their employment earnings to be paid toward the back owed child support.
- Illinois Drivers License Suspension. If a parent is more than 90 days past due on child support payments, the court may order a suspension of their Illinois driver’s license.
- Liens on real property
- Seizing bank accounts
- Lawsuit/settlement liens
- Seizing tax returns
- Hunting/fishing license suspension
- Professional license suspension
- Passport denial/revocation
- An offset of lottery and casino winnings
- Reporting to credit monitoring agencies
- Submittal to the delinquent parent website
When judges believe that parents are voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, parents need to have a good reason for not earning as much as the judge thinks they could. If a judge is unsatisfied with efforts to find a better job, they may calculate child support based on potential income.
Imputed income may be based on:
- the parent’s employment history, including earnings in previous jobs
- local job opportunities for someone with that parent’s qualifications, training, and experience
- prevailing wages in the local community
- any substantial assets that the parent owns
Suppose an unemployed parent doesn’t have enough work history to determine the potential for employment and earnings. In that case, the judge will usually impute income at 75% of the current federal poverty guidelines for a single-person household. The maximum child support obligation for that parent would be $120 a month, to be divided equally among the parent’s children.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support
Modifying Illinois Child Support Payments
Child support orders are eligible for a modification review every three years or when there is a significant change in the child’s needs or the non-custodial parent’s income.
Either parent may ask the court to change the child support amount or end support payments entirely. You can request a review by calling the child support call center at 1-888-245-1938, visiting your local regional office, or seeking a modification independently through the court system.
Before a case can be submitted for modification, a review is conducted to verify balances, non-custodial parent’s employment status, and other pertinent information.
After requesting a modification, you’ll need to complete a Certification of Income and Expenses form included with the packet you’ll receive. Submit your packet, and you’ll receive further instructions based on the review.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provided more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Illinois?
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS) Child Support Services Division is the state agency that provides a range of child support services, including:
- Establishing paternity for a child
- Getting a child support order, including medical support (health insurance)
- Collecting current and overdue support payments
- Requesting a child support modification
- Locate the parent who does not live with the child
You can apply for services on the DHFS website.
If you have questions, call 1-800-447-4278, Monday–Friday, 8 am – 4:30 pm.
DCSS cannot provide legal advice such as how to:
- Obtain a divorce
- Obtain or change custody or visitation
- Obtain an order to provide college expenses
The Illinois State Disbursement Unit (ILSDU) is the payment processing center for Illinois child support payments. The ILSDU processes child support checks from employers and non-custodial parents and disburses the funds via check, direct deposit, or debit card to the receiving families.