Upon filing for divorce, one party may request support from the other party and in the state of Illinois support payments take two forms. If a party is requesting support for themselves to ensure that they are able to adequately provide for their own livelihood, it is considered maintenance (also know as alimony or spousal support). If a party requests support as a contribution to the expenses of caring for children that were a product of the relationship, the court considers this child support.
The first step in determining if support will be granted by the court is to calculate that wages of each party. This can be done by looking at previous tax filings, W-2s, or recent past pay stubs. The state of Illinois requires each party to a divorce or child custody case to complete a financial affidavit when filing for a divorce. When submitting a financial affidavit, the court requests information about each party’s tax returns, owned property, debts, and monthly expenses. When calculating support, the court will look not only at a party’s gross income, but what their net income is after all the deductions have been taken from their overall income. This allows the court to determine a realistic amount for how much money each party is bringing home each pay period.
When determining which amount should be the basis of the income calculations, most courts will look at the amount a party earns monthly. Regardless of if an individual is paid weekly, bi-weekly, or semi-monthly, courts will calculate each of the party’s monthly incomes and measure them against each other. Once determining the gross amount that an individual earns monthly, the attorneys and the presiding court have two options. They can either measure each party’s income on an individual basis or a standardized basis. When measuring a party’s net income on an individual basis, the court examines the individual’s own net pay against the gross pay reported on the same financial document. This can be a beneficial measure for a client that has a large amount of deductions taken out of their check because it provides a more realistic depiction of how much income they actually bring home. When measuring a party’s net income on a standardized basis, the court measures a party’s income by using standardized tax amounts. The standardized amount assumes the parent with a duty to support claims one allowance (for themselves) and the recipient parent claims two allowances (for themselves and head of household) regardless of the number of children between the parties . For this reason, this form of income measuring can be beneficial to a party when they claim a larger number of dependents than constructed for in the standardized measuring system.
If both parents have equal, or near equal, parenting time, their responsibility is considered a shared parenting situation and the courts will next examine which party has the majority of the parenting time and responsibility with the child. This determination is made, in part, by evaluating the number of overnight periods the child spends with each parent. Parenting responsibility is considered shared if a child spends more than 146 nights with each party. While this does factor into the determination of the amount of obligation, the respective incomes of each party are still the most vital aspects.
Finally, the court will look at a combination of mitigating factors that affect each party’s income. An example of this is the payment or receipt of maintenance or spousal support payments from or to a party. This informs the court of other obligations an individual may have and ensures that any imposed support is feasible for that party. In addition, the court will also give an adjustment to a party who has other children to support from another relationship, this is considered a “multi-family” adjustment. When assigning support obligations, courts will further examine who will cover the child(ren) on their health insurance plan. This can add or subtract to the amount owed by the paying party depending upon if they cover the child.
Child support is a complicated issue that affects all parties involved. It is important when reaching a settlement that the individuals reach an agreement that promotes the best interests of any child involved.
For more information on Illinois’ child support laws or other matters, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656.
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