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How do the courts determine child support?

Children deserve to have support from both of their parents, even if that support is only financial. This is why courts typically order one parent to pay child support. It is not a punishment for the paying parent; it is not a reward for the recipient parent.

Child support is also not an arbitrary amount. The courts base their decisions on child support on specific guidelines and calculations.

Establishing who pays

After a divorce or break up, the courts will often order the parent with less parenting time to pay support. If parents share custody 50/50, the courts may order the person earning more to pay support.

However, there are situations where no child support is ordered. This can happen if a person is not the legal parent of a child, if he or she gives up parental rights or if parents and the court agree that there is no need for support.

Factors the courts consider when calculating support

Once the courts establish who should pay support, they will calculate how much support to order. There are numerous factors that affect support calculations. Some of these factors are:

  • Each parent's income
  • Balance of parenting time
  • Number of children for whom a parent pays support
  • Spousal support amount
  • Whether the paying parent also pays for healthcare or child care
  • A child's needs
  • Extraordinary expenses

Based on this information, the courts will calculate how much support is reasonable.

Changing or modifying amounts

There may be situations where the court's calculations are no longer appropriate. This can happen after the order has been in place for a few years or if parents or children experience a significant change in their needs or financial resources.

Under these circumstances, parents can request a support modification. This means that the courts will reassess the factors mentioned above to re-calculate amounts.

Understanding the general processes of assigning, calculating and modifying child support in Illinois can clear up misconceptions and misinformation, making it easier for parents to manage expectations. However, when it comes to specific situations and questions, it can be wise for parents to seek legal counsel.

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