In Illinois, the child support guidelines changed dramatically in 2017. Before then, we determined child support on Illinois based on a simple percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income. In 2017, Illinois adopted our income-sharing approach. Illinois law now considers the net income of both parents. It also considers the number of overnights–when this is more than 146 for the non-residential parent.
Child support can be set at a lower or higher amount (known as a deviation).
Child support awards normally require that each parent to to some of the children’s health care, child care, education and extracurricular expenses.
In an Illinois divorce or paternity suit, is the amount to be paid for child support predictable?
Mostly. The Illinois income sharing law provides guidelines for child support awards. Yet current Illinois law presents a host of problems. This makes it far more difficult to accurately determine the appropriate child support award as compared to our earlier approach.
Is “net income” the same as take home pay?
No! Current Illinois’ law is complex. Net income is NOT just based on the net shown on a pay-check.
How is net income now determined in Illinois divorce and paternity cases?
Illinois law uses two approaches to determine net income under the income-sharing law. Illinois law calculates child support based on tax calculations that are either:
- Standardized or
Explain how the standardized tax amount works:
Determine Federal and State taxes not based on the actual amount paid in taxes. This makes various assumptions such as filing as a single taxpayer. It also assumes the use of the standard exemption. It does apply the applicable number of exemptions further. See: 2023 Addendum to the Illinois Schedule of Basic Obligations and Standardized Net Income Table.
Does the Standardized Tax Table Consider which parent is allocated the under age 17 child tax credit?
No. This allocation is required to accurately calculate taxes. Yet it was not included in the conversion tables. The calculation of the allowance is complicated. The number of the children and the amount of the annual income affect the value.
What’s this about an “Individualized Tax Amount”?
This approach uses the actual taxes that are paid (but not taxes withheld on a pay stub). It is a more accurate approach. Illinois lawyers generally use this approach. They do so because it is fairer to each party. It considers all relevant tax attributes. This includes:
- Each parent’s filing status;
- The actual allocation of the dependency exemptions (and with it the under age 17 child tax credit);
- Whether a party claims the standard or itemized deductions.
Is income from overtime, second jobs, bonuses, and commissions considered “income?”
Usually. Illinois law considers income from all sources including overtime, bonuses, etc. Yet doing so is complex under our income-sharing amendments. This is because the Illinois child support guidelines consider the income from both parents.
What is not considered income under the income-sharing guidelines?
There are certain exceptions for what does not constitute income. Goss income does not include benefits received by the parent from means-tested public assistance programs.
The guidelines also do not consider as income “benefits and income received by the parent for other children in the household.”
I am self employed and have overhead expenses. Can I deduct from my gross income my overhead expenses?
Yes, if done correctly. The best advice is to run the business like a business and keep personal items separate from business expenses. Yet under our the Illinois income sharing law, a self-employed individual can deduct business expenses.
Illinois law defines the net income from the operation of a business. This means gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses required to carry on the trade or business. Just as the law defines income broadly, it defines a business broadly. It applies to:
- sole proprietorships,
- closely held corporations,
- flow-through business entities, and
What about depreciation expenses? Are they deductible.
Yes, but… The law does not allow a deduction for the “accelerated component of depreciation.”
Illinois law also does not allow a deduction for business expenses that are determined to be “inappropriate or excessive.” This would apply to both depreciation and other expenses.
Are perqs included as income?
Yes. The Illinois income sharing guidelines provides that perqs constitute income. It includes as income, “in-kind payment received by a parent from a business, including, but not limited to, a company car, reimbursed meals, free housing, or a housing allowance.” The court examines whether the item:
- Is significant in amount; and
- Reduces personal expenses.
Under the Income Sharing Amendments, how far do the charts go up for the net income?
The charts go up to $360,000 of net income per year ($30,000 per month.). Once net income goes over this amount, make sure you consult with a lawyer. The court has discretion and the approach varies from case to case.
In addition to child support, can the child support payor be required to pay other expenses of the children?
Yes. The usual add-ons to the basic child support obligation are reasonable:
- Reasonable school expenses;
- Extracurricular activity expenses.
The other add-ons are allocated between the parents include:
- Child care expenses;
- Health care needs not covered by insurance.
The income-sharing law in Illinois is complex regarding the issue of the allocation of child care expenses, health care needs, and health insurance. Advice from counsel is necessary to address nuances.
Does child support stop at age 18 of a child?
Not exactly. The law provides that support generally terminates at age 18 or of a child is still attending high school up to age 19. Consult with a lawyer to determine when child support terminates. This varies depending on the language of the settlement agreement, the underlying support order, etc.
If my income fluctuates, will my child support be based on an average of past income?
Perhaps. Child support is often based on current income (year-to-date earnings). These are then projected to year end when an individual receives a steady pay-check but the amount has risen in the current year. The income tax returns for the last few years often demonstrate whether or not there are bonuses or other variable income.
Yet if the income varies significantly from year to year, there had been two approaches: 1) The base-plus-percentage approach; and 2) An income-averaging approach. Under our income-sharing law for child support, things are complex. Illinois child support law considers the income of both parents. And the percentage differs depending upon the income. The support obligor pays relatively higher percentages at lower income levels. Support payors pay relatively lower percentages at higher earning levels. Because of these complications, Illinois divorce courts often use an income-averaging approach. This approach might use an average income over a period such as the last three years. Yet the period selected should be representative of likely future income.
Proactive advice from an experienced matrimonial lawyer in this regard is essential.
Must child support be payroll deducted?
Yes, but… Child support must be withheld from the obligor’s employment income and paid through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) under two circumstances: 1) the recipient is receiving public aid, or 2) support payments are made through income withholding. Yet there is an exception in some cases. The parties can voluntarily bypass the required payments through the SDU where there is a signed written agreement. This agreement must provides “an alternative arrangement, approved and entered into the record by the court, which ensures payment of support.”