Whether to go after child support is a big decision. Maybe the other parent is already paying what they can. Maybe you don’t even know where they are. In either case, a family law attorney would likely advise that you get an official order from the court. Here are some things to know.
- Many people pay based on income. Illinois law has a formula for figuring out how much child support should be paid. The judge can alter the formula if the circumstances warrant a change. And parents can always agree to a different arrangement, although we don’t recommend agreeing to a child support amount without advice from an experienced family law attorney. The law sets forth minimum guideline amounts based on the paying parent’s net income and the number of children in need of support: 20% for 1 child; 28% for 2 children; 32% for 3; 40% for 4; 45% for 5; and 50% for 6 or more children.
- Get a child support order. Although the parent making the payments might do so without a court order, it’s wise to have one anyway. If your situation ever changes and payments stop, you can enforce the order. Enforcement can include wage garnishment, but without a court order you won’t be able to go that route. Don’t rely on oral promises.
- Child support for college is not automatic. If you want child support to continue past the age of 18, you can get a court order for that, as well. Not every request is granted. The judge will take into consideration the income of both parents, the income (if any) of the child, as well as the child’s academic standing. Child support for college can include tuition, as well as room and board and other expenses, including healthcare.
- You can modify child support in some cases. If there is a court order in place, but things change, you can request a modification. Just know that you will have to prove to the judge that there has been a significant change in circumstances. Sometimes, the parent making child support payments faces sudden financial hardship. If this happens to you, don’t stop paying without first going to court and modifying your obligation.
- There is no deadline on collecting court-ordered support payments. Once you have a child support order in place, those payments can be collected if unpaid. We hear from some children wondering if they can collect past-due child support that their parent failed to pay when they were younger. The answer is that the child themselves cannot collect, but the parent can, if they had a court order. There is no deadline, so it’s never too late for that parent to collect past-due payments.
When hiring an attorney for a child support issue in Illinois, look for someone who focuses their practice on child support law and helping parents exercise their rights in this area. We can help you find the right law firm. Contact us any time for a free consultation.