Illinois lawmakers are considering changing the child support formula, which is the guideline courts follow when calculating the amount to be paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. The changes – which already exist in the majority states – would consider the incomes of both parents, as well as the amount of time spent with the child.
There are about 740,000 child support cases in Illinois. Current law does not consider the custodial parent’s income when setting an amount. The formula is a simple percentage of the paying parent’s income, regardless of whether the other parent makes nothing or has a very high income. And the current law doesn’t automatically give the paying parent a break for time spent with the child, even if the child is living with them a significant amount of the time.
The push for change is being made in the name of fairness. The new formula recognizes the fact that the non-custodial/paying parent may have the child at their home and in their care for a significant part of the time, and that fact could lower their payments.
According to a Tribune article, Illinois is one of ten states that use the flat-percentage formula, which takes a strict percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. The percentage increases if there are more children, but it’s not affected by other factors. Illinois has been using the same general formula since the 80s.
The new formula would calculate support payments based on what the child would have received, in terms of financial support from their parents, if the couple had stayed married.
Critics say this will cause more fighting and might lead to the paying parent wanting to know where each dollar of the support is going. In other words, if the formula is looser, there will be more to argue about. It’s also more complicated. Critics also point to the cost of changing the calculation and the system, which has been in place for a long time.
On the other hand, it seems to better reflect reality. Many households have two working parents, so it makes sense to consider both incomes. And custody arrangements vary, so it makes sense to consider time spent with the child, as well.
This potential law is in its early stages. It’s more of a proposal at this point, and even if it becomes law, it would take awhile to implement. But it seems like it’s time for Illinois to make the change. It likely wouldn’t affect all those current child support orders, just new cases that come through after the law is adopted.
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