What Does Child Support Cover?

child supportIf you’re getting divorced (or thinking about getting divorced) you may be wondering how much you can expect to pay (or receive) in child support payments. Unlike alimony, which is based on a percentage of each spouse’s income, child support is calculated based on the estimated costs of caring for and raising a child.

While the amount of child support an ex-spouse is made to pay will vary depending on the divorce agreement, in most cases, child support payments are just meant to cover the basics: food, clothing, housing, and the essential needs of the children. Things like toys, school books, sports, and school supplies are not normally “covered” by child support payments, so the parent with the most parenting time needs to keep that in mind when budgeting their income (including child support) against their expenses.  The Court can, however, enter orders for child support that address these costs outside of the “basic child support obligation” that is calculated per the statute. See below.

Health Insurance

The parent paying for support may also be required to get health insurance for the child through their employer, if their employer offers it, regardless of whether they’re buying health insurance for themselves through their employer. If their employer does not offer it, the parent with the most parenting time may enroll the child in their employer’s healthcare program.  Once the cost of insurance is determined, the new child support guidelines will normally divide this cost of the child’s premium between the parents.

Orders for Supplemental Support

Depending on your unique situation, the court may order the parent who is paying child support to pay for additional expenses, including those related to education for the child, childcare, or any medical or dental costs that are not covered by insurance. It can also include expenses related to extracurricular activities, such as music lessons and sports, as long as those expenses are deemed reasonable and are intended for the wellbeing of the child, their education, and/or their social, cultural, or athletic development.

This is important to remember, especially if your children are in private school and/or are planning on attending college. The price for higher education continues to climb, so it’s common for both parents to chip in to pay those bills. The court may or may not include a supplemental order for the parent with minority parenting time to cover those costs, but either way it’s a good idea for the parents to work out between themselves who will cover how much of those costs. Not only does it make things easier on their post-marriage relationship, but it also makes things easier on the child by ensuring they can focus on what’s really important: getting a good education.

There are many factors included in divorce, especially when children are involved. Ideally, you and your ex can work together to come up with an agreement, but if that’s not possible, at least know your rights so you have some idea of what to expect.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for real estate cases, criminal cases, and all types of family law for more than 25 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

Child Support Changes In Illinois

Child Support Changes In IllinoisIn the past, when a couple with children got divorced, one parent (the non-custodial parent) would be made to pay child support to the custodial parent. But in 2016, Illinois changed its divorce law to exclude titles like “custodial” and “non-custodial.” Instead there is only “parental responsibilities” and also “parenting time,” which get divvied up between the two parents.

At this time, Illinois law still requires the parent with less parenting time to pay child support to the primary caregiver, but that’s all about to change in July 2017. The current system is outdated in that it presupposes a household in which one parent earns the family income and the other parent stays home to raise the children. While many families do still operate this way, an increasing number of families have two parents who work outside the home and the Illinois Legislature recently passed a new law that takes into account these changes.

Rather than ordering one parent to pay a certain percentage of their income based on the number of children being supported, the new law orders the courts to determine how much it costs to raise a child depending on the combined net incomes of the parents. Based on this figure, the Court then decides what each parent must pay toward the cost to raise the child, allocating their responsibility based on his or her income.

For example, let’s assume that based on the parents’ net income, the Court determines that the cost to raise a child is $2,000.00 per month. Husband makes 70% of the household income and Wife makes 30% of the household income. Wife also has primary parenting time with the children. Husband may be looking at paying $1,400 per month of this $2,000 cost, and the Wife would be paying $600. Once you offset these amounts, Husband’s direct contribution to Wife would be $800.00 per month.

As referenced above, the new law also takes into account how much time each parent spends with the children. If the parents share 50-50 parenting time, or one parent has at least 40% of the time with the children, the new guidelines may not apply, and the Court will have to determine a proper child support figure.

Although that last provision was no doubt created with the best of intentions, it may have some unintended consequences. One or both parents might try to spend at least 40-50% of the time with the children, at least on paper, as a way of avoiding paying extra child support, rather than because such an arrangement would be best for the children.

A parent may likewise argue that the other parent should not get to spend that much time with the children because they want more child support, without taking their children’s best interests into account. If both parents start fighting to have the children for a minimum of 40% of the time (or approximately 146 nights each year), a judge may have to step in and determine whether the parents are acting in their own financial interests or the wellbeing of their children.

If one parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court will assume their income is 75% of the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines for an individual. If that’s case, they will be required to pay a minimum child support obligation of $40 each month.

The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2017, so there’s still time to prepare for these changes.

The attorneys at Sherer Law Offices have been providing legal representation for divorce cases for more than 20 years. Our experienced divorce attorneys will take the time to really listen to your unique situation so that they can plan strategies that can best protect your best interests. 

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