FAQ on Child Support in Illinois

Allocated and Unallocated Support 

Illinois law allows for unallocated support (sometimes called “family support”), which is where maintenance (alimony) and child support payments are lumped into one sum. If both maintenance and child support are being paid in the particular action, the option for unallocated support may be available.

Allocated maintenance is designated as separate from child support payments. When the Obligor’s (the person paying support) payments are allocated between maintenance and child support, the Obligor may only deduct the maintenance portion and not the child support portion. Child support is not included as income for the Obligee (the receiving party), or a deduction for the Obligor.

Unallocated support may allow the Obligor to deduct the entire amount of unallocated support (the combination maintenance and child support amount) for tax purposes.

NOTE: There are specific tax laws and requirements that apply to unallocated support, so consideration of use and calculation of this type of support should be made very carefully.

Who Pays Child Support in an Illinois Divorce (Dissolution)

Child support is the right of the child. A parent who is separated or divorced from his or her spouse and has custody of the children is entitled to support from other spouse for the children.

I Want to Hire An Attorney to Help Me Enforce Child Support, But I Don’t Have the Money. What Do I Do? 

Many states now require a court to order the nonpaying parent to pay the attorneys fees and costs incurred in child support enforcement actions. Thus, ask the attorney you plan to hire whether he or she will defer the fee and obtain it from the nonpaying parent. Some attorneys will do this, or permit you to make monthly payments while pursuing the nonpaying parent. Others will require up-front payment in full and will reimburse you if the fees are subsequently paid by the nonpaying parent pursuant to court order.

If you are representing yourself, you can apply to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) for assistance in establishing and collecting child support. By applying for this assistance, the child support agency will assist you in a child support proceeding, irrespective of your income.  You do not have to apply for or receive public assistance to use these services.

If the dependent children live with one parent, and the other parent does not live with them in the home and is not providing financially, assistance can be provided with locating the non-custodial parent, establishing paternity, obtaining or enforcing a child support order once the non-custodial parent is found, enforcing the child support order by serving an income withholding order on the employer of the non-custodial parent, and securing medical insurance for the children.

A person who fails to comply with an order, or refuses to pay child support after being ordered by a court, also is liable to be held in contempt, and could be placed on probation, sentenced to periodic imprisonment, have earnings withheld, income tax refunds intercepted, and have his or her Illinois driving privileges suspended.

How Long Do I Have to Enforce the Child Support Order? How long may I receive child support?

In Illinois, parents are obligated to pay child support to any child under age 18 and any child under age 19 who is still attending high school. In some circumstances, a parent may be obligated to support a disabled adult child.

Can I Collect Interest on Unpaid Support? 

Yes, at the legal rate set by state.

My Ex-spouse Is Going Bankrupt and Owes Me $5,000 in Back Support. Am I Out of Luck? 

For the time being maybe, but not for the long run. Child support orders are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. (In fact, if your ex gets out from under the crush of debts, he or she may be more likely to pay you. At the very least, you won’t be competing with a hoard of other creditors for the few dollars that may be available.)

My Former Spouse Has Stopped Paying Support? I Don’t Want to Hurt His Feelings By Going to Court. Am I Making a Mistake? 

Enforcement of child support orders are best done early rather than late. If there is good cause to reduce payments, an agreement can be made. However, if the parent is merely making excuses, taking immediate and tough action to enforce the court order will be most likely to convince the nonpaying parent that failure to pay will have serious consequences. Moreover, if the amount owed (arrears) get too high, the nonpaying parent may never have the ability to pay it all back.

How Long Does It Usually Take to Enforce an Order of Support From a Nonpaying Parent?

Parents who refuse to pay child support are merely the tip of the iceberg of a growing problem in the United States of family discord and breakdown. It can take from 60 days to one year to enforce a court order for support, depending on whether the spouse can be located.

How can the amount of child support be modified? 

An order for child support is generally only able to be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances, such as a significant increase or decrease in the non-custodial parent’s income, or if there is a significant change in the needs of the child.

If the order is though IV-D services, it is eligible to be reviewed for modification every 3 years, or if there is a substantial change in circumstances amounting to an increase or decrease in the non-custodial parent’s income, or if there is a significant change in the needs of the child.  Participants of the IV-D Program may be able to petition the court for modification without showing a substantial change in circumstances if 3 years have passed since the last child support order was established and there is a difference of at least 20% between the amount of the existing child support order and the increased amount of child support. However, the difference cannot be less than $10.00 a month.

If I remarry, must I still pay child support? If I remarry, may I still receive child support? 

If a parent remarries, and even if that parent has more children, he or she must still pay child support to the children of the first marriage. If a person is receiving child support and remarries, he or she is still entitled to receive child support unless his or her new spouse adopts the child.

In a joint custody situation, may either parent still receive child support? 

Yes.  Generally, joint custody results in one parent being the custodial or residential parent (for purposes of school district, etc.) and the child lives with that parent. Child support is the right of the child and the non-custodial parent has a duty to pay support to the child.

Can the court order health insurance coverage? 

The court has the authority to require either parent to name a child in the parent’s health insurance coverage if the parent can obtain health insurance coverage through an employer or any form of group health insurance, and the child can be included at a reasonable cost to the parent in that health insurance coverage.

Do I have to pay child support to my first family? 

Even though the other parent has a second family, it does not mean that his or her responsibility to the first family goes away. However, the amount of the support order can be affected because he/she has the responsibility for supporting another child(ren). You must be notified first and given an opportunity to provide information before your support order can be changed.

The other parent is in jail. Can I get support? 

Unless he/she has assets, like property or income from an outside source or from a work release program, it is unlikely that support can be collected until he/she gets out of jail and receives income or acquires property.

Is a father who never married the mother still required to pay child support? 

The short answer to this question is yes. In Illinois, paternity is a legal relationship between a father and his child. When a mother is not married, it’s not always clear who the father is, so paternity should be legally established. The easiest way to establish paternity is for both of the child’s parents to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. Paternity may also be established by an Administrative Paternity Order entered by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services Child Support Services, or by an Order of Paternity entered in court by a judge.

Is a stepparent obligated to support the children of the person to whom he or she is married? 

No, unless the stepparent legally adopts the children.

Do I have to pay child support if my ex keeps me away from my kids? 

Yes. Child support should not be confused with custody and visitation. Every parent has an obligation to support his or her children. With one narrow exception, no state allows a parent to withhold support because of disputes over visitation. The exception? If the custodial parent disappears for a lengthy period so that no visitation is possible, a few courts have ruled that the non-custodial parent’s duty to pay child support may be considered temporarily suspended.

No matter what the circumstances, if you believe that your “ex” is interfering with your visitation rights, the appropriate remedy is to go back to court to have your rights enforced rather than to stop making support payments.