The new law will use an "income share" approach, similar to what is already in use in several other states. Under this model, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will put forth a table that estimates how much money would be spent on a child of a similarly situated couple if the family were still intact. Essentially, this means that the Department will look at the combined net income of the two parties and determine how much would be spent on the child if the couple were still married. Once this level is determined, each party will be responsible for his or her proportional share based on his or her income. For example, if the table places the annual spending on the child at $20,000 and the father makes 40% of the combined income and one child lives with the mother, the father would pay the mother $8000 per year in child support.
How Will My Child Support Obligation Change?
There are a few things to keep in mind about the new law once it goes into effect. Perhaps the most important consideration for parties that have already finished their divorce is that the change in the law is not a sufficient reason to go back to court and have the child support level recalculated. If there is a "substantial change in circumstances" that warrants a modification, the new law will be applied after the effective date.
What the majority of payors and recipients will be most interested in knowing is how the amount of child support will change after the law takes effect. As of the date of this post, the Department has not published the tables that will be used to determine the total amount to be spent on children in different situations. Without this information, it is impossible to be totally sure how the new law will affect the child support amount. In some cases, the amount will be lower and in some cases the amount will be higher. As soon as the tables are released, we will determine the relative differences for different parties at different income levels.
The new law will also incorporate a "magic number" that will impact the amount of child support: 146. The new law treats "shared parenting" situations differently, and to fall under a "shared" situation, each parent must have a minimum of 146 overnights with the child or children. If your situation meets the magic number test, the total amount of child support is multiplied by 1.5 and then the relative amount is altered based on the relative amount of time each parent spends with the kids. The more time you spend, the less you will be obligated to pay to the other parent. It is important to remember that the magic number is a threshold, meaning that below the magic number, the relative amount of time is not a factor.
Ultimately, the new law will benefit some and cost others. For the first time, maintenance (previously known as alimony) will explicitly be counted as income in the calculation of child support and the amount of income of both parties will be a factor. The income (and imputed income of parties that are unemployed or underemployed) of the child support recipient will be of significance in a way it was not under the previous law. The magic number may also have an impact on how parties approach the allocation of parenting time.
The attorneys at LeVine Chicago Law invite you to stay tuned to this forum for future updates to this and other meaningful areas of the law and the factors that could affect our valued clients.