Posted on April 5, 2022

Illinois Child Support Laws After Age 18

Child support is money to help support the care and raising of a child.  In Illinois, when does a child stop being a child and therefore stop needing support? What is a parent’s duty to a child as the child continues to age? What are the Illinois child support laws after age 18?

The Illinois statute defines a child for the purposes of child support.

“[T]he term “child” shall include any child under age 18 and any child age 19 or younger who is still attending high school.” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)

There’s the rule.  Child support continues in Illinois until the child turns 18 and, if the child is still in high school, until the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever comes first.

Every child support order in Illinois even requires that the child support termination date be included in the that child support order.

“An order for support shall include a date on which the current support obligation terminates. The termination date shall be no earlier than the date on which the child covered by the order will attain the age of 18. However, if the child will not graduate from high school until after attaining the age of 18, then the termination date shall be no earlier than the earlier of the date on which the child’s high school graduation will occur or the date on which the child will attain the age of 19.” 750 ILCS 5/505(g)

Without a termination date on some order, child support continues until a motion to modify support is filed.

“An order for child support may be modified as follows:

(1) upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances” 750 ILCS 5/510(a)

The child reaching the age of majority and/or graduating from high school is certainly a substantial change in circumstances.

Is Child Support Ever Extended Beyond Age 18 or 19 in Illinois?

Yes. If your child is significantly disabled you will have an obligation until that child overcomes their disability.

“The court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the support of a child of the parties who has attained majority when the child is mentally or physically disabled and not otherwise emancipated. *** An application for support for a non-minor disabled child may be made before or after the child has attained majority.” 750 ILCS 5/513.5(a)

In my experience, most courts in Illinois will look at an adult disabled child’s needs and then compare those needs to the child’s social security disability allotment. If the child’s needs are being met by the allotment, then there will be no ongoing child support obligation. 

I have never seen this logic regarding an offset of child support due to social security disability be applied for children under 18, unless the social security disability allotment is based on the child support obligor’s disability. 

An additional obligation arises when children leave high school, college and university.  Parents of college students in Illinois have an obligation to contribute to their children’s university education…and the amount is almost always higher than child support was.

“The authority under this Section to make provision for educational expenses extends not only to periods of college education or vocational or professional or other training after graduation from high school” 750 ILCS 5/513(c)

Do I Owe Child Support If The Child Becomes Emancipated?

Sometimes a child can become an adult even before they are 18.  This was common in the old days when 16 year olds would get married or join the army.  Emancipation hardly ever happens anymore.

In order to terminate child support because of an emancipated child, there has to be an actual petition for emancipation filed in the Illinois courts.  Emancipation is not just automatically presumed if the child moves out, gets married, or joins the military.

But, if the child does manage to become emancipated, an ongoing child support obligation in Illinois definitely ceases.

“Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prevent the court from modifying the order or terminating the order in the event the child is otherwise emancipated.” 750 ILCS 5/505(g)

What Happens To Child Support Owed After The Child Turns 18 In Illinois?

“The order for support shall state that the termination date does not apply to any arrearage that may remain unpaid on that date.” 750 ILCS 5/505(g)

Just because child support terminates when your child turns 18 or graduates high school does not mean you stop paying child support IF YOU STILL OWE child support in Illinois.  In fact, the Illinois statute says you still have to pay the same amount of support until your arrearage is satisfied.  The statute even says if you were paying extra before to pay off your arrearage, you still have to pay that extra amount after the child is an adult.

“If there is an unpaid arrearage or delinquency (as those terms are defined in the Income Withholding for Support Act) equal to at least one month’s support obligation on the termination date stated in the order for support or, if there is no termination date stated in the order, on the date the child attains the age of majority or is otherwise emancipated, the periodic amount required to be paid for current support of that child immediately prior to that date shall automatically continue to be an obligation, not as current support but as periodic payment toward satisfaction of the unpaid arrearage or delinquency.” 750 ILCS 5/505(g-5)

Can You Modify A Child Support Arrearage Payment After The Child Turns 18?

The Illinois statute doesn’t say you can modify your child support arrearage payment.  The statute doesn’t say you can’t modify your arrearage payment either. 

In lieu of modifying an arrearage payment, just don’t pay or pay what you can.  You will still owe the arrearage.  Don’t forget that interest is accruing on that debt at a 9% annual rate (this rate will change to 5% in 2021 per current Illinois legislation).

Enforcement of Child Support In Illinois After the Child Turns 18 In Illinois

Enforcing child support and child support debts has a lot more teeth than enforcing any other kind of obligation like a credit card.

If you don’t pay child support, you can have your license suspended, your passport denied and you may even be sent to jail.

These powers of enforcement do not expire simply because the child turns 18. 

“The court does not lose the powers of contempt, driver’s license suspension, or other child support enforcement mechanisms, including, but not limited to, criminal prosecution as set forth in this Act, upon the emancipation of the minor child.” 750 ILCS 5/505(i)

How To Really Handle Child Support Owed After A Child Turns 18.

An arrearage of child support is an obligation between two people, the parent who owes child support and the parent who is owed child support.

The parent who owes the money wants the arrearage to go away.

The parent who is owed the money wants as much money as possible as soon as possible.  After all, the parent who owes the money obviously does not pay on time.

Both parties should make a deal.  The parent who owes money should come up to with some amount of money immediately to satisfy the arrearage and end the financial relationship between the two parents forever.  What that amount is, is up to the two parties…but I have negotiated some really good deals for both sides of that negotiation.

The arrangement you come to with the other parent must be put in writing and entered as an order with the court.  The court must approve of your agreement

“[P]arents may create an enforceable agreement for modification of child support only by petitioning the court for support modification and then establishing, to the satisfaction of the court, that an agreement reached between the parents is in accord with the best interests of the children.” Blisset v. Blisset, 526 NE 2d 125 – Ill: Supreme Court 1988

If the child is no longer a “child” then the court doesn’t need to consider the child’s best interests.  The court will always approve any agreement the parents have as to arrearage judgments.

What If I Can’t Come To An Agreement With The Other Parent As To The Child Support Arrearage?

If you cannot arrange an agreement as described above do the following:

If you are the parent who is owed money, get an order memorializing exactly what the obligor parent owes you.  The domestic relations court will just let the obligor parent pay “what they can” which is always some pathetic amount like $ 50 a week.

Then the parent owed the money can take the judgment for the arrearage amount to a collections lawyer who will register the judgment in the civil division of the county courthouse and begin garnishing the obligor parent’s wages at 25% of disposable income and seizing the obligor parent’s assets. In my experience, the domestic relations court are not aggressive at all about garnishment and asset seizure as civil collections courts are.

A collections attorney will get you all of your money…with interest.

If you are the parent who owes the arrearage, just hope the other parent did not read to the end of this article.

If you’d like to talk more about what happens to your child support obligation after your child becomes an adult, contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to talk with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer.

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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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