Illinois Is A Joke When It Comes To Child Support

I just received an e-mail that said the following: "I've gone through the state since 2008 and still I have not received any child support. This is insane. Can you help?"

The State of Illinois has a free agency that will help you collect child support payments from a deadbeat parent. I've received calls and emails like this before, usually about one a day. The answer is that the state can't help you as well as a private attorney can, so if you can afford one, get one.

There was a celebrated report published a couple of years ago that said the state collected support in 37% of its cases. That's a great average for a baseball player, but for a single parent, it's lousy. It means that the state failed over 60% of the people that came to them.  And the "success" rate refers to people that got some results, not everything they were entitled to.

It comes down to resources. The state service is free, so you can imagine how many cases they get. The system moves slow, and if your case is complicated, it moves even slower, if at all. They simply aren't equipped to handle tough cases, like when the other parent owns a business, works for cash or lives out of state.

A private attorney will have more resources to devote to your case and more of an incentive to succeed. You're paying them. They should be there when you have questions about your case or simply want an update. And if they don't do a good job for you and other people who come to them, they're going to go out of business. Overall, the success rate is higher.

For some people, the state is their only option. So it's good that it's free. But you get what you pay for. A good family law attorney usually costs at least $2,500 to start the case. It may cost more by the time it's over, but it's really an investment in your family and yourself.


On another note, I hosted a live chat in this space last month and it went well.  I'll be doing another one on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. for about an hour.  So if you ever had a question that you wanted to ask a lawyer, but didn't want to pay for it, that is your chance.

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  • I agree the state is a joke. Once they learned my ex was working a cash job they did nothing to go after him.

  • I am sorry, but as a fellow attorney, and in today's economic environment "dead-beat" Dads are common and if they have no legitimate reason to not be working to support their children (and that of course goes for women too, then why don't the Judges do what will get those dead-beats to FIND the money? And that is, put them in jail!

    Years ago when I was a young lawyer, Judges seemed to routinely do that....and would tell an errant parent to: Come back in a week with some money or your toothbrush!!!

    And, if I recall correctly, contingent fees may not be allowable in recovery of back child-support, and the fee paid out of the recovery? If not, why not?

    Your suggestion that only those who are very poor or those who can come up with $2,500.00 to get a result is not adequate and the result is kids that have poor role models, may not have enough funds to get proper medical attention, mentoring in subjects in school that they need help with and a general disregard to law and our legal system if the parent not paying is under a court order to do so.

    Can we lawyers come up with better solutions then the two offered to date?

  • In reply to paulb:

    Of course the system isn't adequate but I don't write a lot about how things should be, I write about how they are realistically. I'm no fan of giving false hope.

    As far as solutions go from lawyers, you can do a child support case on a % basis, but most I've met won't because the chances of collecting aren't great. So as a business owner you have to decide how much of your time is going to be spent giving away your product. As you probably know, most lawyers don't make the type of money that would allow for it.

    To me the biggest problem is that it's so easy to work a cash job. If that was harder then it would be easier to collect support.

  • In reply to paulb:

    Sir, I have to STRONGLY disagree with you! Hire a private attorney you said,if he's not good he'll go out of business you said,that state is slow..right? Well Sir,in my case in Southern Illinois, I hired a private attorney,the case took 3 years. After all was said and done, I got custody of my daughter,then 3,and 200 something a month child support. That was 2003. Since then, I have recieved nothing until the case was turned over to DHS in 2007,by me to find help! After I had to go BACK to the court house,file the DHS paper work,go get on link/medical,etc..I get nothing for another 3 years! So,either way,you are screwed! Save the 2500,and go on vacation!! After you get back,go to DHS,the time isn't an issue. After all,my kid will be 11 this year. I have never recieved a tax return,and recieved 2 payments of 60 total in 8 years. I even had to tell the state in 2010 i had custody of my girl,and have had,since 2003. My kid is owed 20,000+ in back child support. So,moral is kids,you hire a private may still need dhs even after all your hard earned money is spent,and the judges signature has dried on your paper work. Oh and my attorney,didn't go out of business. He got promoted to Judge,go figure.

  • In reply to paulb:

    Oh, and trust me..when your family is owed 20,000 at least, (I've lost count now) and you know the State,or County should notify the I.R.S. to red flag the taxes after $500 and you get told you missed the cut off date to file the paper work by 19 days to get the taxes,in 2010. Even AFTER hiring the private attorney, 8 years prior, and my case going through the County. It should've been in the system but wasn't,AND after being on public assistance for 3,count them,ANOTHER 3 years,and having papers filed in the County Circuit Clerks office,since 01-04, I MAY get her tax return in 2011. I'll keep that in mind when the dead beat rolls up in her new car and clothes for her OTHER kids she bought with her tax return from this year!!! THANKS ILLINOIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • In reply to paulb:

    At the risk of being redundant, why don't the Judges just put these deadbeat dads and moms in jail where they belong?! Give them a chance, but make it a last chance early on, and just send them to jail? In my experience, one is amazed that when such a person is taken to the lock-up, on the way to jail, they somehow find a way to pay up!

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    I'm coming to terms with the fact that child support is just another one of the many fairy tales we are told to believe in. My daughter is 14. Her dad owes over $8,000, yet moved from Lombard, Il. to a house that is 5 minutes away from Oceanside beach in California. He and his wife have their own pet sitting business, they are currently remodeling their entire house, and all because every dollar that goes in his hands is in either his wife's name, or his uncle's name. There is no paper trail whatsoever. My daughters faher and his wife are rewarded for being gluttonous, heartless and neglectful on so many levels. It completely astonishes me at how people who do the wrong thing do not suffer the consequences. They don't have to even give it a second thought. Here it is, almost Christmas... and I am sure paying child support is the last thing on his mind.

  • My experience, like many, is that receiving child support from a DEADBEAT in the state of Illinois is a JOKE-though NOT a laughing matter at all.
    Now the Governor of Illinois has the Audacity to change the calculation of child support so that DEADBEATS can pay even less than what they were Not paying in the first place.
    What a horrible place to Live with these kind of 'people' in power.

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