Posted on March 10, 2019

What Should Child Support Cover in Illinois?

Child support in Illinois is calculated based on a complicated formula where both parents’ incomes are used to calculate the non-custodial parent’s obligation to the custodial parent.

This amount of money is then ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent.  This calculated child support is usually deducted from the obligor’s paycheck, paid to the state disbursement unit (who accounts for the payment) and then forwarded to the custodial parent.

Child support is not tax deductible to the payor and the child support receiver does not pay tax on the child support they receive.

What is this child support supposed to actually pay for? 

The short answer is “anything the custodial parent wants it to pay for.” The custodial parent has no obligation to provide an accounting of what child support is used for.  You cannot present the court with evidence of the other parents’ clothing, vacations or even suspected drug use as evidence of what child support was used for.

“We will not assume that petitioner will spend all of the child support money on luxuries or frivolities.” In re Marriage of Ackerley, 775 NE 2d 1045 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 2002

Nor does child support have to provide for only the basics that the child needs.

“A child is not expected to have to live at a minimal level of comfort while the noncustodial parent is living a life of luxury. ” In re Marriage of Bussey, 108 Ill. 2d 286, 297 (Ill. 1985)

If you believe that child support is being misused or is an inappropriate amount your only available remedy is a motion to modify child support.

What Child Support Covers And What Child Support Does Not Cover.

Presumably, child support should be used to pay for food, clothing and shelter while the child is in the custodial parent’s care.

The USDA says that it costs about $ 200 a month to feed a child in America, $ 50 to clothe a child, and a two bedroom apartment usually costs $ 1200 so assume that the child’s portion of the rent is at least $ 400.  So, in total, food clothing and shelter is costing the custodial parent at least $ 650 a month.  If your child support is less than $ 325 a month ($ 650/2), you should not be complaining.

If your child support is higher than $ 325 a month please consider that the child needs a comparable standard of living in both the custodial parent’s home and in your home.

There are many expenses beyond food, clothing and shelter, however.  Almost all of those expenses are split by the two parents.  Extra-curricular expenses, health, educational and religious expenses will be divided in the Allocation of Parenting Time and Parental Responsibilities (a court order that governs the two parents’ relationship regarding the child).

Typically, these expenses are split 50/50 but can be divided proportionally based on the parents’ incomes if there is a significant difference between those two incomes.

The Allocation of Parenting Time and Parenting Responsibilities should also include a schedule for how each parent should ask the other parent for reimbursement of any expenses they covered.  For example, one parent can send the other parent a receipt within 30 days of the expense and then the other parent has another 30 days to pay the one parent back.  If there is no schedule, a parent can simply provide the other parent with 18 years of receipts and create an impossible reimbursement situation.

Keeping records of what you’ve spent on your child is helpful to you for both personal budgeting reasons and resolving any financial disputes you may have the with the other parent of your child.

Daycare Expenses and Child Support

There are two massive expenses that get divided between the parties, daycare and college expenses.

Daycare expenses are staggering for young parents and they cannot be avoided.  You cannot ask the court to let the custodial parent’s mother watch the child.  You can, however, volunteer yourself or your own mother to watch the child or, if you find a cheaper daycare, you can ask the court to switch daycares.  Many lower income parents are offered very affordable daycare programs through Headstart programs.   Daycare, thankfully, is an issue that eventually goes away once the child is eligible to attend kindergarten.

College Expenses and Child Support

Child support ends on the child’s 18th birthday or on the day of the child’s high school graduation, whichever comes last.  But your financial obligation to your child will continue if your child goes to college or university.

College expenses are generally put off until the child becomes eligible for college.  The amount college will cost either parent depends on the college the child elects to attend and the cost of that college after grants and scholarships.  College expenses, simply cannot be planned for between two separated parents before the child’s 16th birthday.  All 529 plan savings either parent makes will be considered that particular parent’s contribution when the cost of college is actually divided.

If you have questions about child support in Illinois, contact my Chicago law firm to speak with an experienced Illinois family law attorney.

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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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