Change child support in Illinois

Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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Deviating From Illinois Guidelines Child Support

Change child support in Illinois

Illinois requires that the non-custodial parent (the parent who has the child less nights a year) pay the other parent child support. This amount is determined by an arcane chart based on both parents’ incomes and the number of children they both share. Modifications are then made based on who pays the child’s daycare, health insurance and whether the non-custodial parent has 40% or more of the overnights. The final number of child support owed when following these rules is referred to as the “guidelines support.”

“Guidelines” is not a strong word. To guide means to show the way…which implies there are other ways.

If you are not satisfied with the amount of child support you are receiving or ordered to pay, you can ask the court to deviate from the guidelines if you have a good enough reason.

What Is Guidelines Child Support In Illinois?

“The court shall determine child support in each case by applying the child support guidelines” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2)

Guidelines child support in Illinois is determined as follows.

“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)

Letter C is an inscrutable variable: “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”

The schedule referred to is an “Income Shares Schedule” that estimates what it costs for two parents of a certain combined income to raise one through six children.

What basis does this number have as an “adequate standard of support for a child, subject to the ability of parents to pay” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1)(A)?

Well, the law says the chart is “adequate” so an Illinois divorce or parentage court can take judicial notice that the chart’s numbers are a sound basis for child support.

The counter-argument would be that “adequate” is the lowest standard possible and any other fact based on sound reason would be superior to an “adequate” chart.

Most people, however, will never challenge the underlying chart and will merely calculate the guidelines using the HFS website or Family Law Software.

If you wish to calculate the guidelines support yourself, “each parent’s percentage share” refers to the parties’ respective incomes. So, if the chart says it costs $ 1000 monthly to raise a child and mom (the parent with the most time) makes $ 30,000 a year and dad makes $ 60,000 a year, then dad will pay 66% of the $ 1000 because dad makes 66% of the total combined income of the two parents.

Subsequent adjustments can be made based on both parents having more than 40% of the overnights, either parent paying for child care or health insurance and whether either parent has (or should have) other child support obligations.

The final child support obligation number you’ll arrive at will be abstract. It may, in your opinion, have zero basis in the reality of what it costs to raise a child or what is your actual capacity to pay child support. In such a case, you can an Illinois divorce or parentage court for a deviation in guidelines child support.

Deviating From Guidelines Child Support In Illinois

“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, after considering the best interests of the child and evidence which shows relevant factors” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2)

“The guidelines establish a beginning point for analysis.” In re Marriage of Scafuri, 561 NE 2d 402 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 1990

The guidelines support amount is not the last word. Once guidelines have been determined, “[t]he guidelines shift the burden of presenting evidence to the parent who is asking the court to deviate from the guidelines in setting a child support award.” In re Marriage of Scafuri, 561 NE 2d 402 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 1990

The guidelines support amount is merely a rebuttable presumption.

“In any action to establish or modify child support, whether pursuant to a temporary or final administrative or court order, the child support guidelines shall be used as a rebuttable presumption for the establishment or modification of the amount of child support ” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.5)

To rebut is “to contradict or oppose by formal legal argument, plea, or countervailing proof” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law ©1996

“The court may deviate from the child support guidelines if the application would be inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.5)

Inequitable? Unjust? Inappropriate? Those are very low bars to meet for the rebuttal to be effective.

An effective and simple argument would be that “an appropriate amount is superior to an adequate amount…which is all the guidelines gives us” and then elaborate on what is appropriate.

There will still need to be evidence presented that the deviation is sufficient. It will not be enough to merely say “this number feels fair”

“This presumption [of the sufficiency of the child support guidelines] cannot be negated unless compelling evidence shows reason for the deviation.” In re Marriage of Demattia, 706 NE 2d 67 – Ill: Appellate Court, 4th Dist. 1999

The statute suggests some additional evidence to present in ordert to deviate from guidelines including:

“(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)(3.5)

Broader factors the court may consider in deviating from guidelines child support include:

“(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)

In fact, judges have to consider all additional factors and must entertain any request for deviation based on any legal factors available. “No judge should, or properly could, surrender the responsibilities of considering all relevant factors dictated by Illinois law in reaching an appropriate result.” In re Marriage of Blaisdell, 492 NE 2d 622 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1986

A deviation from guidelines support can go either down OR up.

“[A] child support award is not limited to the “shown needs” of the children. A court may award support in excess of the needs of the children or in deviation from the guidelines if necessary to enable the children to enjoy the standard of living they would have had if the marriage had not been dissolved.” In re Marriage of Scafuri, 561 NE 2d 402 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 1990(citations omitted)

The “best interests of the child” will always be the best guideline for an upwards deviation. Ex: “the child needs this money.”

The best argument for a deviation downwards is that another child needs the money more that the child in this case.

The Illinois divorce or parentage court is going to have to buy your argument to such an extent that they will have to subsequently write that argument to deviate from the child support guidelines into their order.

“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.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3.5)

Once the court has committed to deviating from the guidelines with a rational explanation, that is the new rule for the parents in the case

“The amount of a child support award is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.” In re Marriage of Scafuri, 561 NE 2d 402 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 1990

Whoever created the Illinois child support guidelines was not a rocket scientist. Therefore, deviating from the Illinois child support guidelines is not rocket science. Contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm today to discuss how to raise or reduce your child support to properly reflect all of your children’s needs.