Calculating Child Support in Illinois

A father hugs his son on a sunny day in the park

In July 2017, Illinois began using an income share method to calculate child support.  This method is used by a majority of the states in the US and shares the cost of raising a child between the parents with each parent paying based upon their respective incomes and the number of overnights they have with the children.  

The state of Illinois, specifically the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), came up with a table called the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligation (BCSO) to set out a uniform number of what it costs to raise a child in Illinois.  The two variables required to find the BCSO for your case is (1) the net income of both parents added together and (2) the number of children.  Once you have these two things, you can look at the chart and get a number for support which is required to be paid by both parents. Each parent will pay based on their percentage of income and percentage of overnights they have with the children. 

How the Illinois Child Support Statute Calculates Child Support?

A review of the details of section 505, which is the Child Support Statute in Illinois, provides the steps in calculating child support based on the shared income method:

The court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support. The duty of support owed to a child includes the obligation to provide for the reasonable and necessary physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.

The statute provides the steps to take to compute the Basic Child Support Obligation.  To do so, you need to know the net incomes of both parents.  We typically start with each parent’s gross income, and we have a child support program that properly calculates the net income.  Many times, a parent will overtake in their federal deductions and overpay their taxes.  When they do that, more tax is taken out of their paychecks, and at the end of the year, they receive a large refund from the government.  If you just look at a person’s paycheck to see what his net income is, you are relying on that person to take adequate taxes out and not to take more tax than what is required. 

According to section 505 of the Child Support Statute of Illinois, a standardized tax amount means,  “…the total of federal and state income taxes for a single person claiming the standard tax deduction, one personal exemption, and the applicable number of dependency exemptions for the minor child or children of the parties, and Social Security and Medicare tax calculated at the Federal Insurance Contributions Act rate.” HFS has published a standardized net income conversion table that computes net income by deducting the standardized tax amount from gross income.

Gross income is sometimes an issue when you are looking for the initial “gross income” in order to get to the parent’s “net income.”  Under our statute, gross income represents a parent’s total of all income from all sources except benefits received from certain public assistance programs and income from sources like child support payments, court-ordered maintenance, or survivor benefits.

After all the taxes are taken from each parents’ income, we know the net income, and both parties’ incomes are then added together.  The calculation looks to the combined parties’ monthly net income, how many children there are, and how many overnights each parent has with the children.

Our calculations show what each parent has to pay for the child.  That doesn’t mean that each parent writes a check to the other parent.  The parent with the child is assumed to have spent their share on the child already.  Only one parent will pay support to the other parent.

Guideline Support

The state of Illinois has what we call “guideline support.”  The numbers are calculated and applied, and that is the amount of the “guideline.”  It does not mean that the judge will necessarily use that number.  You can try to convince the judge to do a deviation from that guideline based on reasons you believe entitle you to more than the guideline amount or that you should pay less.

One reason that the guideline might go up or down is based on the needs of the child.  Maybe your child requires tutoring or some other extra ordinary expense.  You might be arguing that the guideline amount isn’t enough to meet the needs of your child. 

Another reason could be the financial resources and needs of one of the parents.  Perhaps you are already paying support for another child or you are caring for an elderly parent.  The judge isn’t likely to make your child suffer because you are caring for an elderly parent, but if the other parent is financially capable of paying more and you already have this financial hardship, it might be worth asking the court to consider those special financial restrictions that you have.

Sometimes when you receive the child support, it just is not enough money to give your child the same standard of living that your child would have enjoyed if you and their other parent had not broken up.  This is a consideration you could ask the judge about, particularly where a child used to be able to do certain activities but now cannot with the new child support award.

The last factor considered is the physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs.  Perhaps you are considering private school and the court will not make the other parent pay for that type of education.  You could ask for a deviation of child support upward so that you could still give your child that type of education.  Or perhaps your child is handicapped and other support is needed.  Each case is different, so you’ll want to discuss your specific circumstances with your lawyer.

It should be noted that our statute provides that unless a court has determined otherwise or the parties agree otherwise, the parent with the majority of parenting time is entitled to claim the dependency exemption for the children.

Illinois Child Support Statute Allows for Adjustments

Our statute allows for adjustments to income depending on certain situations.  Sometimes a parent is also legally responsible for support of another child who is not shared with the other parent in question. The court should consider any court-ordered payments made for another child. Typically, the amount of court-ordered support paid for that other child is deducted from the net income.

What if you are paying child support for another child, but you aren’t paying it per a court order?  Again, the court may also adjust the net income to deduct the total of support being paid for the other child. However, in any scenario involving another child, the court may not adjust the net income if they find that doing so would financially harm the child shared between the parents in question.

What if you are paying maintenance, formally called alimony?  There is adjustment to your support obligation for this as well. In this case, your maintenance adjustment is deducted either from the receiving parent’s after-tax income or from the payor’s gross income, depending on whether or not the maintenance payments are tax deductible.

What if you own a business?  Do you have to pay support based on the gross income of your business?  The answer is no.  For purposes of calculating business income, you first look at the gross income of the business.  You are allowed to deduct expenses like rent, what you pay your employees, and other business expenses.  You’ll subtract those expenses from your gross income.   

If a parent is unemployed or underemployed, child support shall be calculated based on potential income by determining employment potential and probable earnings based on work history, occupational qualifications, and prevailing job opportunities. If there is not enough work history to determine employment potential, it is presumed that the parent’s potential income is 75% of the estimated earnings for a single person, as currently projected by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines.

There is a minimum child support obligation of $40 per month, per child. However, no support may be ordered in situations where a parent with no gross income currently receives means-tested assistance or who is unable to work due to incarceration, institutionalization, or a medically-proven disability.

In situations where there is income above the schedule of basic child support obligation, the court may determine child support at its discretion.  This will happen when the combined net income of the parents exceeds the highest level of the schedule of basic child support obligation.

Other Considerations

Child support is supposed to pay for your child’s housing, clothing, and food.  Child support may or may not cover other costs like extra-curricular expenses, school fees and expenses, childcare expenses, or uncovered medical expenses.  It is possible for the court to make each parent share in those types of expenses, on top of the child support amount. 

In a situation where the parents have shared physical care of the child (each parent has more than 146 overnights), the BSCO is multiplied by 1.5 to calculate the shared care child support obligation. The court will determine each parent’s share of the support obligation based on each of their percentage shares of combined net income. For each parent individually, the court will multiply their portion of shared care support obligation by the percentage of time that the child spends with the parent. After offsetting their obligations, the parent who owes more will pay the difference between child support amounts to the other parent.

In situations when each parent has physical care of at least one but not all of the children, two child support worksheets will be used to determine what each parent owes. The lesser support obligation will be subtracted from the greater, and the parent who owes the greater obligation will pay the difference to the other parent.

In addition to child support, extracurricular activities, school expenses and childcare, there is health care.  A portion of the BCSO is intended to cover basic ordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses and the court will also order the parents to provide for the child's current and future medical needs by ordering either or both parents to provide health insurance coverage.  The court may also order either or both parents to contribute to the uncovered portion of health-related costs.

Author's Bio:

About the Author

Janice Boback is the Managing Partner of Anderson & Boback Divorce and Family Law Firm.  She is a divorce and family law attorney supporting families in the Chicagoland area in Illinois.  Jan is a true professional with a strong, ethical approach that has earned her a stellar reputation amongst judges and other lawyers. She is a zealous advocate, fierce litigator, and compassionate supporter, she’s a lawyer other lawyers choose when they need representation.  Janice is regularly appointed by judges to represent children and members of the military, based on her years of experience in the unique domestic laws for each. Her expertise also includes handling complicated financial matters and property division typically encountered in high asset divorce cases.

To stay up to date about the diverse and evolving Illinois regulations surrounding Child Support and other Illinois Family Law concerns, feel free to read articles written by Jan Boback and her team.