Child support is something that generally has a lot of issues accompanying it. Each state has its own rules on when and how payments are received and there are lotos rules that can get either the custodial parent (the parent with custody) or the non-custodial parent into trouble. That’s why it’s the job of child support lawyers in Chicago to carefully establish guidelines and agreements between the parents. Here are 5 of the most common mistakes that are made when parents are dealing with child support in Illinois.
1. The parent’s support obligations automatically terminate when the child reaches the age of 18.
Section 505(a) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act specifically states that for purposes of child support a “child” includes any child under the age of 18 and any child under the age of 19 who is still attending high school. Moreover, even when child support does terminate under section 505(a), both parents may still have legal support obligations for their child’s medical expenses and their post high school educational expenses.
2. Parents alter the amount of the child support obligation by mutual agreement without a court order.
Once a child support order is entered by a court the amount of the non-custodial parent?s child support obligation remains in full force and effect until it is modified by a subsequent court order. Any agreement, verbal or written, between the non-custodial parent and the custodial parent to increase or decrease the court ordered child support obligation is not enforceable in Illinois unless their agreement is formally approved by the Court via a new child support order.
3. A non-custodial parent’s child support obligation automatically ends if he/she is unemployed.
The fact that a non-custodial parent has become unemployed does not eliminate his/her obligation to pay child support. While the court may enter an order temporarily reducing or suspending support while the non-custodial parent is unemployed, it remains the unemployed parent?s obligation to show the court that he/she is making reasonable efforts to find employment and is not simply trying to avoid paying child support. If the court determines that the non-custodial parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, is attempting to evade paying child support, or has unreasonably failed to pursue obtaining appropriate employment, the court had the authority to order child support based on the unemployed parent?s most recent employment income or on the amount of income he/she could reasonably be expected to earn.
4. The non-custodial parent does not need to pay child support if he/she has no visitation with the child or is denied visitation with the child.
In Illinois, a non-custodial parent?s child support obligation and his/her visitation rights are independent of each other. A non-custodial parent continues to have a legal obligation to support his/her child and must comply with any child support order entered by a court even if the non-custodial parent spends no time with the child. Similarly, the non-custodial parent may not withhold payment of court ordered child support even if the custodial parent is refusing to allow him/her to exercise court ordered visitation rights. In such a case, the non-custodial must continue to pay child support while seeking to enforce the visitation rights, being denied, through the court.
5. If the parties are awarded joint custody of the child, there will be no award of child support.
Generally, in cases where joint custody is awarded, one parent is designated as the residential parent; and the child’s legal address is the same as the residential parent. In these instances the non-residential will be required to pay child support to the residential parent according to the statutory guidelines with no automatic credit to the non-residential parent for the amount of his/her parenting time. However, where a non-residential parent?s time with the child exceeds what is considered to be customary visitation, the Illinois courts may choose, on a case by case basis, to deviate downward from a strict application of the child support guidelines.