Salvatore: Child Support Modification: Circumstances re Former Wife’s Employment Contemplated at the Time of Divorce Due to Language within MSA and JPA
The March 2019, In re Marriage of Salvatore decision has gained considerable traction among divorce lawyers. Rarely has Illinois law changed as dramatically as it has in the child support arena. Child support payor’s are seeking vastly reduced child support awards. Consider the following chart, suggested by Attorney Marty Coonen of Crystal Lake, that may simplify potential types of child support modification. This chart is consistent with the income-sharing law that went into effect on July 1, 2017 and refers to case law both before and after our income sharing amendments:
|Substantial Change in Circumstance|
|Payor||Recipient||Result Following Statute / Case Law|
|Income||No Change||Increase in Potential Income Anticipated Circumstance||Denied. Salvatore, Hughes and Lehr. See: Book at Sec. 17-1(3).|
|Income||No Change||Increase in income not Anticipated||Allowed|
Had been under 40%
|Increase to Over 40%||Modification not likely* (No specific case law, but see Demattia and Sobieski) Book: 10-3[i] and . “Shared Physical Care and Support.”|
|Parenting Time > 40% < 50||Increase to 50% or greater||Modification likely|
|Note: Increase or decrease must be SUBSTANTIAL and material. See 17-1(a) for definition of substantial change per case law. See, e.g., Plotz for incremental versus substantial changes.||* Review modification pre-post guidelines of child support (original guidelines).|
In the 2nd District McHenry County case of Marriage of Salvatore, the former husband argued that if he were allowed to modify his child support obligation, it would be reduced by less than half applying the current guidelines under the income sharing amendments. So, the question in this case was whether the former wife’s prospective employment had been anticipated as reflected in the parties’ marital settlement and joint parenting agreements.
This topic is addressed in Gitlin on Divorce: A Guide to Illinois Family Law: § 17-1[b] “Changes Anticipated by Judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement” including the Hughes decision that is addressed at some length in Salvatore.
Keep in mind that the income sharing amendments provide:
“The court may grant a petition for modification that seeks to apply the changes made to subsection (a) of Section 505 by Public Act 99-764 to an order entered before the effective date of Public Act 99-764 only upon a finding of a substantial change in circumstances that warrants application of the changes. The enactment of Public Act 99-764 itself does not constitute a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification.”
The overall problem that cases like this address is what to do with the known and historical interplay between child support and maintenance. In medium to high-income cases involving shorter to medium term marriages, historically maintenance has not been generous to the recipient. Child support awards in higher income cases drop dramatically under income shares. Yet maintenance awards were made with the knowledge and understanding of the overall impact of the child support obligation. In many cases, drastically reducing child support that may be occasioned by a substantial but relatively small reduction in income, may have a devastating impact on the family unit. In such cases, the court should apply the new child support guidelines but deviate upward from the child support guidelines given the needs of the primary residential parent and the children.