In the last several years there have been significant changes to the Illinois divorce laws which may necessitate a review of your prior orders. Most recently, on July 1, 2017, revisions to the Illinois child support laws took effect. Prior to that date, courts typically ordered the “non-custodial” parent to pay child support to the “custodial parent” based upon a percentage of his statutory net income. For example, the statute required the non-custodial parent to pay 20% of his statutory net income for one child, 28% for two children, and 32% for three children. The statute defined “net income” as the non-custodial parent’s gross income (from all sources) minus specifically enumerated deductions. In addition, with the exception of special circumstances, courts would not consider the income of the custodial parent nor would they consider the amount of visitation enjoyed by the non-custodial parent.
The new “income shares” model eliminated the old minimum percentage guidelines and instead requires courts to estimate the amount of financial support the child would have received had the family remained intact. Under the income shares model, the court combines the net incomes of the parents and then orders each parent to pay his or her pro rata share, which is determined by comparing their respective incomes. In practice, the new law requires courts to reference income share charts which are published by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS). However, the IDHFS provides an online Child Support Estimator and Income Shares Calculator on its website for use by the general public. The income shares model is the approach adopted in a majority of states.
As with most laws, the new Illinois child support laws contain exceptions to the general formula. For example, the statute carves out an exception for shared parenting arrangements. A shared parenting arrangement is defined as one in which the child is with each parent for at least 146 overnights in a year. Once the threshold is met, the amount of time the parent spends with the child can affect the amount of his obligation relative to the other parent.
The revisions to the Illinois child support laws could result in some parents being obligated to pay more and some parents being obligated to pay less than under the old laws. However, according to the statute, a parent cannot petition to modify a child support obligation based solely upon the changes in the law. Rather, a parent may petition the court to modify a child support obligation upon a substantial change in circumstances. Exactly what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances depends upon the specifics of the case and is something you should discuss with your attorney.