When Illinois courts order a support obligation – whether for a child or former spouse, they consider the financial standing of each party. Despite the court’s attempt to ensure support obligations are equitable and fair, the reality is that financial situations may change. Courts will alter support obligations only in particular situations. Because of this, it is important to know when support obligations can be reevaluated by the court.
WHAT DOES THE COURT CONSIDER?
If the original agreement between the parties contained an agreement that support obligations would be non-modifiable, the party requesting the change has a significantly higher burden to overcome for the request to be granted. The party requesting the change must prove both that there was a substantial change in circumstances, and that this change could not have been contemplated by the parties at the time the agreement was made. If there is no provision about an obligation being non-modifiable, when considering if a support obligation is eligible to be changed, Illinois courts will evaluate if there has been a substantial change in circumstance. To determine if a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, the court will examine if there is an increased or decreased ability to pay by the supporting party.  One of the most common reasons for a changed ability to pay is a change in employment. The employment change could be positive or negative; the supporting party could receive a promotion or could have recently become unemployed. This type of job change is typically considered substantial enough to reevaluate support obligations. Even though a court may determine that the change in circumstance of the supporting party is substantial enough to qualify for reevaluation, such change does not necessarily guarantee that the court will actually grant a modification request. One of the most significant factors considered is whether the change in employment was made in good faith.  For example, if a court determines that the supporting party left their job or willingly took a pay cut, the court may deny the request. 
MODIFYING MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTS
The actions of the party receiving maintenance support can also affect the court’s willingness to continue the obligation. One of the most common reasons that a court will stop or reduce a maintenance obligation is if the party receiving support begins to live with another adult on a full-time basis, as part of a “marriage like” relationship. To evaluate if the new relationship meets this standard, courts will look at factors such as the comingling of finances, the couple’s presentation to others about their relationship, and their living arrangements.  Remarriage by a party receiving spousal support will also terminate a previous maintenance obligation based on the idea that a receiving party no longer needs spousal support if they have elected to remarry. . Additionally, death of one party will end the obligation to pay maintenance. If the supporting party dies, regardless of the estate’s size, the court will refuse requests to collect maintenance support.  A final way that maintenance can end is through agreement between the parties. If the parties previously agreed that a maintenance obligation would terminate on a specified date or at the occurrence of a specified behavior, the supporting party can notify the court and petition for the end of the obligation.
MODIFYING CHILD SUPPORT
When determining if a modification of child support is appropriate the court will also examine the existence of a substantial change in circumstances. This evaluation is based upon the circumstance of the parties at the time of the last order entered compared to the moment a modification is sought. . One reason that parties may seek to modify a child support obligation is a change in the allocation of parenting time between the parties. If the party paying support receives a significant increase in parenting time, the court may determine that the support obligation previously ordered no longer fits the circumstances. An additional reason a child support obligation may be altered is if a child shared by the parties reaches the age of eighteen or graduates from college. If the support obligation operating at that time was written to include more than one child, a court may reexamine the obligation upon the oldest child becoming legally financially independent. Courts typically reduce the obligation to an equitable amount to reflect the continuing needs of the remaining minor child.
Whether you are the individual paying or receiving support, obtaining a modification in support can be a difficult process. It is important to understand your rights and obligations as circumstances change overtime.
If you have questions about modifying a support obligation, or any additional family law matters, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656 for more information.
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 In re Marriage of Hughes, 322 Ill. App. 3d 815, 751 N.E.2d 23, 255 Ill.Dec. 929 (Ill. App., 2001)
 750 ILCS 5/510 (a-5)(1)