Child Support Basics

by Wes Cowell; updated 26 April 2017 -- suggest a correction.

 

If the kids spend most overnights with one parent, child support is determined by the combined net incomes of both parents and the support obligation is shared by them based on their respective income.  If the kids spend roughly equal overnights (at least 40% -- 146 overnights / year) with each parent, a different formula is used -- taking into account the amount of time the children spend with each parent.   Under either model, support may deviate (up or down) from the result produced by the formula.  Need advice? Call, leave your info, or schedule a consultation.

BOTH parents owe a duty of child support to their children.  It used to be that in most cases the kids would spend most of their time with Mom and not so much time with Dad.  Moreover, most Dads earned a LOT more than most Moms.  Society changed:  today, lots of divorced dads spend lots of time with their kids and women make up a majority of the American workforce.

CHILD SUPPORT BASICS

CONTENTS

How It Works

Determining Net Income

Standard Taxes

Individualized Taxes

Adjustments for Other Children and Maintenance

HFS Child Support Guidelines

Asymmetrical Parenting Schedule

Example - Simple

Shared Parenting Time

Example - Shared Parenting Time

Deviation From Guidelines

How It Works:  All child support computations start by determining the net income for BOTH parents.  Mom's and Dad's net incomes are then combined to determine the "Basic Child Support Obligation."  That is the amount of support the child(ren) should receive from both parents.  The Basic Support Obligation is then allocated to Mom and Dad based on their respective shares of their combined income and the higher-earning parent pays the other.  That's all there is to it.  If the kids spend more than 40% of their time with each parent, then we adjust each parent's share of the Basic Support Obligation to account for the shared parenting.

Determining Net Income:  Under the old law, there were constant squabbles over how to determine a parent's "net income."  Folks would argue about whether taxes were calculated properly, whether some payments were income or reimbursements, whether overtime, commissions, or bonuses were accurate or likely to continue . . . and on and on.  Those squabbles are eliminated in the new law by Illinois' Department of Healthcare and Family Services' (HFS) "Gross to Net Income Conversion Table" that determines a party's net income.   The Basic Child Support Obligation amount is then apportioned between Mom and Dad based on their respective net incomes.       

 

Standard Taxes:  Most folks see all their income in the form of a paycheck from one or two jobs.  To  determine gross income, just look at the most recent pay-stubs or last years's W-2s or 1099s.  From that, "net income" is determined by HFS's Gross to Net Income Conversion Table.   That's it:  grab a paycheck, last year's W-2 or 1099s, or last year's tax return and go to the HFS table.

"Individualized" Taxes:  Other people -- small business owners, the self-employed, capitalists, etc. -- may opt skip the State's "standardized," black-box tax table and instead do it the old-fashioned way by presenting their financial circumstances to the court.  The judge will conduct a hearing and rule on the parties "net income."

Adjustments for Other Children and Maintenance:  A party's gross income may be further reduced before going to the HFS Gross to Net Income Table if he or she  is supporting children from another relationship (with or without a support order), and if he or she is paying maintenance in the pending proceeding. 

 

HFS Child Support Guidelines:  Before 2017, we used to multiply an obligor's net income by a percentage based on the number of children being supported -- 20 % of one child, 28% for two kids, etc.  Today, once we know the parents net income,we go to an online table maintained by Illinois' Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to determine the child support obligation.  Plug in the net income and the number of kids and the chart reveals the child support award.

Asymmetrical Parenting Schedule:  If your kids spend most of their time with one parent, child support is determined by:

  1. Find the each parent's net income using the standardized or individualized tax methods and applying any adjustments (above);

  2. Go to the HFS table and use the parents' combined net income to find the Basic Child Support Obligation.

  3. Apportion the Basic Support Obligation between the parents based on their respective net incomes.

  4. The parent owing support pays to the other his or her share of the Basic Support Obligation. 

  5. Add to that amount the payor's proportional share of any

    1. health insurance premiums,​

    2. qualifying day care costs,

    3. school and extra-curricular expenses.

Simple Example:  Mom nets $1,704 (on a gross of $2,000) and Dad nets $2,382 (on a gross $3,000); they have one child who spends most ofthe time with Mom.  Their combined net income is $4,087.  Mom's share of that net income is 41.69% and Dad accounts for 58.31%.  The Basic Child Support Obligation for $4,087 is $844 / month (this figure comes from a table maintained by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services).  Dad would pay to Mom 58.31% of the Basic Child Support Obligation of  $844, or $492 / month.

In the above example, Dad would also pay to Mom 58.31% of the child's health insurance costs, child care expenses, and school and extra-curricular activity expenses.

Shared Parenting Time Schedule:  If your kids spend at least 146 overnights with each parent, calculating support is easy as pie -- here's what you do:

  1. Find the each parent's net income using the standardized or individualized tax methods and applying any adjustments (above);

  2. Determine each parent's separate support obligation using the HFS table.

  3. Add the separate obligations of the parents and multiply by 1.5 to get the "Shared Physical Care Support Obligation" (that's right:  (Mom's support + Dad's support) x 1.5 = Shared Support)

  4. Apportion the Shared Support Obligation between Mom and Dad according to their respective net incomes.

  5. Multiply each parent's apportioned share by the percentage of overnights the child spends with the other parent.

  6. Offset the two amounts.

  7. That's it -- the parent owing more pays the difference between the two amounts.

Shared Parenting Time Example:  Using the above example, let's say the child spends 146 overnights with Dad (146 / 365 = 40%) and 219 overnights with Mom (146 / 365 = 60%).  Because the child spends at least 146 overnights with each parent, we multiply the Basic Support Obligation by 1.5 to get the "Shared Physical Care Support Obligation" ($844 x 1.5 = $1,266).  We allocate the Shared Support Obligation between Mom and Dad based on their respective net incomes:

 

Mom: $1,266 x .4169 = $528

Dad: $1,266 x .5831 =$738.  

 

We then multiply each parents share of the Shared Support Obligation by the number (percentage) of overnights the child spends with the other parent:

 

Mom: $528 x .4 = $211

Dad:  738 x. .6 = $443

Finally, we offset the two amounts and Dad pays to Mom the difference:  $443 - 211 = $232 plus his 58.31% proportional share of the child's health insurance costs, child care expenses, and school and extra-curricular activity expenses. 

Deviation From Guidelines:  The court may consider deviating from the result produced by either method.  Remember, the "guidelines" are just that -- GUIDELINES -- and the court may deviate from them.  In the granddaddy of all "deviation" cases William Blaisdell argued his assumption that under Section 505(a), courts are mandated to follow literally the schedule for child support.  The Illinois Appellate Court handed him a quick loss, saying:

 

"If this reading is correct, the function of the court is reduced to that of a computer or robot. In this case, the sole function of the court would be to determine the net income of the noncustodial parent, determine the number of children, and calculate the amount of child support by applying the percentage of net income stated in the schedule. However, respondent has failed to show that the statute can or should be read to effectively prohibit judicial discretion."

Boris v. Blaisdell, 142 Ill.App.3d 1034, 97 Ill.Dec. 186, 492 N.E.2d 622,  (Ill. App. 1 Dist., 1986)

As an aside, Blaisdell is an excellent "lawyer's case" because it lays out the legislative history of Illinois' child support laws and includes bits of legislative testimony and explains the pre-legislative de facto guidelines used by local circuit courts.

 

Any deviation must serve the "best interest of the child," must fall within one of the law's proscribed "deviation factors," and must be spelled out in detail in the resulting child support order.  The "deviation factors" include:

 

  • the financial resources and needs of the child,

  • the financial resources and needs of the custodial parent,

  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved

  • the physical mental and emotional needs of the child,

  • the educational needs of the child,

  • the financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

  • any other appropriate factor.

“My son had special neds and I needed more than the 20% my ex said I was entitled to.  Wes helped me get everything I needed.  
–Mary M.., Schaumburg, Cook County, IL
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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