For parents in the divorce process or thinking about divorce, child support is a hot topic because parents do not know how much it will be. Not knowing this amount can cause considerable financial headaches. Luckily, in the second half of 2017, our state changed the way child support is calculated, the Income Shares Model.
Income shares model
The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services transitioned to the Income Shares Model, which is a widely used method throughout the U.S. to calculate child support. The change was recommended and endorsed by advocates and industry experts. This includes the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, which developed the model. At the time of this transition, our state became the 40th state to adopt this new model.
Prior to the change, the calculation was primarily based on the parent’s income that was ordered to pay and the number of child. Conversely, the Income Shares Model calculates child support based on the typical costs for families in similar circumstances, which means that both parent’s incomes are factored, along with familial expenses.
The typical family costs are those costs generally incurred to raise a child with parents in a similar income bracket. Again, this is the combined income of both parents, not just the person required to pay, but the portion owed by the custodial parent is assumed to be paid because the child lives with that parent.
Familial expenses are those expenses associated with raising a child. This includes food, clothes, housing transportation, entertainment, education, ordinary extracurricular activities, and ordinary uncovered medical expenses. However, spouses can also argue for extraordinary circumstances that could affect the child support amount, and family court judges are empowered to take that into account.
The state provides an Income Shares Calculator to help divorcing spouses get a sense of what their child support amount could be. But, as judges do have some leeway, the state still recommends divorcing parents consult their own attorneys.