Child Support in Illinois

By Jordan Levey

How is child support calculated in Illinois?
The relevant statute in Illinois that governs child support is Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”). Pursuant to Section 505, the Court uses the following formula to determine the amount of child support:

Number of Children Percentage of Supporting
Party’s Net Income
1 20%
2 28%
3 32%
4 40%
5 45%
6 or more 50%

How long does child support last?
A supporting parent’s child support obligation will usually last until the child turns 18. However, if the child is still in high school then the child support obligation can remain in place until the child turns 19. In certain circumstances, a parent may be ordered to pay child support indefinitely (e.g., in the case of severe mental or physical disabilities). Other events may terminate a child support obligation early, like if the child dies, gets married, enters the U.S. Armed Forces, or obtains permanent employment.

How is income determined for the purposes of calculating child support?
Child Support is calculated based on the payor’s net income, which is defined as income from all sources, minus the following deductions:

  • Federal income tax
  • State income tax
  • Social Security (FICA payments)
  • Mandatory retirement contributions required by law or as a condition of employment
  • Union dues
  • Health Insurance premiums and life insurance premiums ordered by the court to reasonably secure payment of a court-ordered child support obligation
  • Prior obligations of support or maintenance actually paid pursuant to a court order
  • Obligations pursuant to a court order for maintenance (spousal support) in the pending proceeding actually paid or payable to the same party seeking child support
  • Expenditures for repayment of debts that represent reasonable and necessary expenditures for the production of income (e.g., student loans)
  • Foster care payments paid by the Department of Children and Family Services for providing licensed foster care to a foster child

What if the supporting parent doesn’t work?
If a supporting parent is unemployed or voluntarily underemployed, then the Court can order that parent to seek employment and maintain a diary of his/her job search efforts. The Court may also order that parent to report to the Department of Employment Security for job search services to assist with finding new employment. Occasionally, a parent may quit a job or voluntarily decrease his/her income in an effort to lower his/her child support obligation. However, the Court may impute income to that parent equal to the amount of money he/she earned previously or is capable of earning, and calculate child support based on the imputed income.

How is child support paid?
Child support can be paid directly to the other parent or through the State Disbursement Unit (“SDU”). The benefit of having child support payments processed through the SDU is that they keep an accounting of all child support paid/owed. Child support payments may also be withheld from the supporting parent’s wages by sending a copy of the child support order and a notice of withholding to his/her employer. Child support payments will be withheld from the supporting parents’ wages and processed through the SDU.

What if the supporting parent doesn’t pay?
The unpaid portion of child support will accrue interest each month and the supporting parent will have to pay the interest in addition to the balance owed. If a parent fails to pay child support pursuant to a court order then the other parent may file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause, asking that the supporting parent be found in contempt of court for failing to comply with the support order. In addition to finding a delinquent party in contempt, the court can impose various sanctions to compel compliance with a court-ordered child support obligation, including driver’s license suspension and criminal prosecution.

Does child support cover all child-related expenses?
Child support is meant to provide for the basic needs of the child (food, shelter, etc.). However, in addition to child support a parent may be ordered to pay for other child-related expenses like uncovered medical expenses, extracurricular activities, and daycare. Additionally, Illinois is one of the few states that allows the Court to order parents to contribute towards a child’s college expenses.

What are the tax implications of child support?
Child support is not taxable. This means that child support is not included as taxable income to the party receiving support, and it is not deductible to the party paying support.

Categories: Child Custody and Child Support.