Both parents of a child have a financial obligation to support their child’s needs, whether or not the two of them remain married or were ever married at all. Every state has unique rules for calculating child support in divorce, or when unmarried parents must go to court to determine custody, parental rights, and financial support for their children. If you are bracing for a divorce in Springfield, IL and are unsure of what to expect when it comes to the role child support could play in your proceedings, it’s wise to consult an experienced Springfield, IL divorce attorney as soon as you can.
Child support is a difficult subject for many divorcing parents. Even parents who are willing and able to negotiate with their coparents may encounter problems when it comes to reconciling their family’s best interests with state statutes. Ultimately, unless both spouses earn the exact same amount of income and spend the exact same amount of time with their children, one of them will pay child support to the other. If you litigate your divorce, the judge will decide an appropriate amount based on numerous factors. If you and your spouse want to explore alternative dispute resolution, you may come to a mutual agreement on your own terms, but the agreement must align with Illinois statutes for child support.
Crucial Factors in Child Support Determinations
When an Illinois family court judge must rule on child support, the court must first calculate an appropriate amount of support using a shared income model. In 2017, Illinois changed this statute from a percentage-based model, considering both parents’ incomes as a whole as if they remained married to determine how much they would have spent on their children’s expenses. The state’s approved formula aims to address a child’s best interests by assessing all relevant variables, including:
- The likely standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents remained married. In all cases, family court judges in the Springfield, IL area strive to ensure the children of divorcing parents can enjoy a similar standard of living to that which they experienced while their parents were married.
- The emotional, psychological, and physical condition of the child. Medical and psychological needs typically require financial support. If your child has any specific needs, these will certainly come into play in a child support determination.
- The educational needs of the child. Some children may require special education, tutoring, or occupational therapy to thrive at young ages. These needs deserve thoughtful consideration in child support determinations.
- Unique financial needs, such as a disability requiring consistent treatment. Parents aware of their children’s long-term or chronic medical issues must address these variables in child support negotiation. In some cases, it may be necessary to arrange expert witness testimony to support claims of financial need for disability or other long-term medical conditions.
- The financial situations of the parents. Illinois changed the way it assesses parental income in divorce. It’s vital to be aware of how this change could impact your child custody determination and work closely with your lawyer to determine your support liability.
- Contributions the parents have made toward the child’s upbringing and everyday routine. This factor will also likely inform a decision concerning custody, awarding majority custody to the parent who routinely provides the most basic parental services to the children.
Remember that this list is not exhaustive, and every child support determination will involve unique variables. In some situations, parents may pay much more or much less than the formula dictates, and judges approach these situations on a case-by-case basis.
How to Determine Your Child Support Liability
Custody is typically the primary determining factor when it comes to child support. For example, suppose one parent receives more custody than the other and will therefore be responsible for the children’s everyday needs more frequently than the other. In that case, the parent with greater custody will likely receive child support from the noncustodial parent. If you are unsure whether you will be expected to pay child support or if you should expect to receive it, it’s first necessary to assess your custody situation. If you and your ex have completely joint custody of your children, the next step in estimating child support is calculating net income.
“Net income” refers to the total after balancing a parent’s income and debts and expenses. It’s possible for a higher-earning parent to have a lower net income than a lower-earning parent due to carried debt. A Springfield, IL divorce attorney may need to consult with financial experts to determine the exact net income of both divorcing spouses. It may also be necessary to consult forensic accounts and other professional analysts to determine whether one of the divorcing spouses has attempted to hide assets or debts in an attempt to offset their liability for child support.
Your Springfield, IL divorce attorney can help you gather the documents and records you may need to accurately prove your net income. Once you and your attorney are confident that both you and your spouse’s respective net incomes have been accurately reported, you can then assess other factors to estimate your child support liability.
Your Child’s Needs and Best Interests
Custody rights and net income of both parents are the most critical factors in determining an appropriate child support amount in a divorce. However, many other variables can arise to complicate this determination. Primarily, if a child of divorcing parents has a medical issue, disability, or other condition that necessitates ongoing expenses, it’s vital to address this in your divorce proceedings. Child support determinations must account for these unique variables, so be sure to consult with an experienced Springfield, IL divorce lawyer if you are unsure how your child’s unique needs could come into play in your divorce proceedings.
Many parents choose alternative dispute resolution rather than invest the time and money required for divorce litigation. During mediation, a divorcing couple can negotiate most, if not all, terms for their divorce. However, they may not make a solid agreement concerning child support without approval from the court. It’s possible to reach a mutual agreement that is slightly outside the typical standard so long as a judge recognizes the couple’s need for this arrangement and approves it.
Whether you are litigating your divorce or attempting mediation, your child’s best interests are ultimately the most important factor when it comes to determining an appropriate child support amount in your divorce. Even when you opt for mediation, your proposed support agreement developed in mediation must align with what the court determines to be your child’s best interests.