Everyone knows that the parent who has the child the majority of the time is awarded child support. But what happens when neither parent has the child most of the time? What if the parents are splitting custody 50/50? What happens to Illinois child support when the children stay with each parent 50% of the time?
How Is Child Support Calculated In Illinois?
An Illinois family law court has the power to award child support.
“[T]he court may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage or civil union to pay an amount reasonable and necessary for support.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)
The amount of that child support is not so clear to the layperson or even most attorneys. In reality, we all use online calculators to determine child support but it is important to know the principles that those online calculators operate under. Illinois law imposes a series of byzantine steps in order to calculate child support.
“The court shall compute the basic child support obligation by taking the following steps:
(A) determine each parent’s monthly net income;
(B) add the parents’ monthly net incomes together to determine the combined monthly net income of the parents;
(C) select the corresponding appropriate amount from the schedule of basic child support obligations based on the parties’ combined monthly net income and number of children of the parties; and
(D) calculate each parent’s percentage share of the basic child support obligation.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1.5)
Step C is not clear. What schedule?
“The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services shall adopt rules establishing child support guidelines…and a schedule of basic child support obligations that reflects the percentage of combined net income that parents living in the same household in this State ordinarily spend on their child.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1)
That schedule can be found here. It has hundreds of combined incomes in $25 to $ 100 increments that can be used to total each parent’s share of child support.
Once the child support obligation amount is determined based on the Illinois Health and Family Services schedule, you then “calculate each parent’s percentage share of the basic child support obligation.” This is done based on percentages of the parents’ respective net incomes.
Even though each parent’s share of child support is calculated, “the receiving parent’s share is not payable to the other parent and is presumed to be spent directly on the child.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1.5)
For example, Jim and Laura had a baby. Jim and Laura have a baby. The baby always stays with Laura. Jim makes $ 50,000 net a year and Laura makes $ 30,000 net a year. Their joint net income is $ 80,000 or $ 6,666 a month.
The schedule tells us that the child support obligation shall be $ 1091 a month.
Jim makes 62.5% of the total net income of both parents ($50,000 / $ 80,000). So, Jim will have to pay Laura $681.87 ($1091 * .625) for monthly child support.
How Is Child Support Calculated Based On The Number Of Overnights?
“If each parent exercises 146 or more overnights per year with the child, the basic child support obligation is multiplied by 1.5 to calculate the shared care child support obligation.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.8)
What? Child support goes up if you have more parenting time?
No. We’re not done yet. Once the child support obligation times 1.5 is determined we divide that number by the percentage of time the obligor parent has with the child.
“The child support obligation is then computed for each parent by multiplying that parent’s portion of the shared care support obligation by the percentage of time the child spends with the other parent.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.8)
The two respective amounts of support based on the percentage of time with the child are then offset by each other. The smaller child support amount is subtracted from the larger child support amount.
“The respective child support obligations are then offset, with the parent owing more child support paying the difference between the child support amounts.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.8)
This is tough. We’re going to need an example.
Back to Jim and Laura from the previous example. To refresh your memory, Jim and Laura have a baby. Jim makes $ 50,000 net a year and Laura makes $ 30,000 net a year. Their joint net income is $ 80,000 or $ 6,666 a month.
The chart tells us that the child support obligation shall be $ 1091 a month.
Then we multiply that amount by 1.5. $ 1091 * 1.5 = 1,636.5.
Jim makes 62.5% of the total net income of both parents ($50,000 / $ 80,000). So, Jim’s initial obligation (before recalculating based on parenting time) will be to pay Laura $1022.81 ($1636.50 * .625) for monthly child support.
If Jim has the baby 147 nights a year. He has the baby 40.2% of the time. That means Jim does NOT have the baby 59.8% of the time. So, multiply the child support obligation by the percentage of time that the parent with the majority of the time has with the child.
$1022.81 * .598 = $ 611.64
Laura’s obligation is the total child support obligation multiplied by her share of the total income ($1636 X .375 = 613.50). That amount is then multiplied by the percentage of time she does NOT have the child, 40.2%. $613.50 * .402 = $246.63
Jim’s obligation ($ 611.64) less Laura’s obligation ($246.63) is $365.01
Now do you see why we just use the calculator to determine child support in Illinois?
Is it really worth fighting for those extra days to get to apply the shared child support formula in Illinois? If Jim had the child for 145 days or less he would pay Laura $681.87 in monthly child support. If he had the child just one extra day over 40% of the time, Jim would pay Laura $ 365.01 in monthly child support for a total savings of $ 316.86 a month. That’s a lot of money.
If a parent asks for more time with a child in order to reduce their child support, while that seems…inappropriate, it’s perfectly legitimate. The court does not award parenting time based on a parent’s motives. The court awards parenting time based on the best interests of the child.
If a parent brings forth child support in determining the parenting schedule, shout “Objection. Relevance!” Child support is irrelevant in determining parenting time in Illinois.
What Is Child Support for A Parent With 50/50 Custody In Illinois?
Many parents engage in custody or parenting time arrangements that provide for a 50/50 split of the children’s time. This can be week-on/week-off, 5-5-2-2, or every other day.
It may seem logical to say “we each have the children an equal amount of time. Therefore, neither parent should owe the other parent child support.” The Illinois child support guidelines don’t agree.
The child support owed would be calculated with the shared multiplier (1.5).
Let’s go back to our example of Jim and Laura if they had 50/50 custody of the baby.
The chart tells us that the child support obligation shall be $ 1091 a month. At 50/50 custody, Jim has more than 146 days of parenting time so the obligation shall be multiplied by 1.5. $ 1091 * 1.5 = 1,636.5.
Jim makes 62.5% of the total income so his child support percentage obligation is $ 1022.81.
Laura’s obligation share is the total child support obligation multiplied by her percentage of the total income. $1636 X .375 = $613.5.
Jim doesn’t have the child 50% of the time so his obligation would be $511.40 ($1022.81 X .5)
Laura doesn’t have the child 50% of the time so her obligation would be $ $306.75 ($613.5 X .5)
$511.40 less $ 306.75 is $ 204.65. Jim would still owe Laura $ 204.65 in child support even if he had 50/50 custody
Can A Judge Terminate Child Support If Custody is 50/50 In Illinois?
It makes sense that if a child’s time is split equally between two parents that neither parent should owe the other parent any child support. That is not the law in Illinois, however.
“[B]ecause the court calculates child support based on each parent’s income and determines each parent’s support obligation, ‘[b]oth parents have the financial responsibility to support a minor child.’ ” Vance v. Joyner, 2019 IL App (4th) 190136, ¶ 54 (quoting In re Marriage of Maczko, 263 Ill. App. 3d 991, 994 (1992))
The guidelines (as described above) must be applied or the Illinois divorce or parentage court must acknowledge that the court is not applying guidelines child support…and explain why the court is not applying guidelines child support.
“While a trial court may deviate from the guidelines when justice so requires or depart from them when the application of the guidelines would be inappropriate, a deviation is intended to be an extraordinary measure distinct from a parent’s status as a recipient or obligor.” Vance v. Joyner, 2019 IL App (4th) 190136
“The court may deviate from the child support guidelines if the application would be inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate. Any deviation from the guidelines shall be accompanied by written findings by the court specifying the reasons for the deviation and the presumed amount under the child support guidelines without a deviation. These reasons may include:
(A) extraordinary medical expenditures necessary to preserve the life or health of a party or a child of either or both of the parties;
(B) additional expenses incurred for a child subject to the child support order who has special medical, physical, or developmental needs; and
(C) any other factor the court determines should be applied upon a finding that the application of the child support guidelines would be inappropriate, after considering the best interest of the child.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.4)
Without the above written findings from an Illinois divorce or parentage court, a child support order can never be reduced to zero for both parents if the child is not yet emancipated.
What If One Parent Makes Way More Money Than The Other Parent?
If one parent is making $ 200,000 and the other parent is making $ 20,000, it might not make sense for the higher-earning parent to pay guidelines child support (which would be $976.44) just because time sharing is split 50/50. The child’s lifestyle would just be too dramatically different between the two homes with child support set at the guidelines amount.
Illinois law allows the courts to deviate from the child support guidelines.
“The court shall determine child support in each case by applying the child support guidelines unless the court makes a finding that application of the guidelines would be inappropriate” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2)
Like everything involving children and the law in Illinois, this decision is based on the best interests of the child which, in the case of child support deviation, is based on:
“(A) the financial resources and needs of the child;(B) the financial resources and needs of the parents;(C) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage or civil union not been dissolved; and(D) the physical and emotional condition of the child and his or her educational needs.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2)
The Illinois Supreme Court has even found that a parent with a majority of the time with the child may have to pay child support to the parent who only sees the children sporadically (should the facts warrant such an award).
“[A] trial court may order the custodial parent to pay child support to the noncustodial parent where circumstances and the best interest of the child warrant it.” In re Marriage of Turk, 2014 IL 116730