Seeking child support reform in Illinois


About two years have passed since the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee recommended that Illinois change the way it calculates child support.

Despite this recommendation and the fact that 38 states have already reformed their child support calculation models since the 1980s, Illinois appears to be less motivated to act quickly in updating a system that is outdated.

“I think it affects a lot of people and doesn’t get talked about much,” said Todd Bottom, an advanced doctoral student at DePaul who has been studying divorce and fathers’ well-being. “Awareness needs to be created. I think that students here at DePaul could benefit tremendously from knowing about this current form. Many of them are or were affected in one way or another by the divorce of their own parents.”

The current model Illinois uses is called “percentage of obligatory net income.” Under this model, the noncustodial parent pays a flat percentage of his or her income based on the number of children. It fails to take into account the income of the parent who has custody and the amount of time the noncustodial parent spends with the child.

“Our formulas and how we calculate how much should be paid are out of whack with the rest of the United States,” said Mike Doherty, chair member of the Children’s Rights Council of Illinois, which advocates for cooperative and shared parenting.

The newly proposed income shares model looks at each parent’s income and considers how much time the noncustodial parent spends with the child. Under the current model, how much the custodial parent earns is irrelevant.

“It is more rational economically,” said Doherty. “It simply makes sense. Both parents are responsible for their child. That joint responsibility doesn’t disappear when there’s a divorce. Both should bear some sort of obligation for the child financially, not just one.”

The new model is about more than just financial fairness. It is better for the child since it will result in less conflict and therefore, fewer custody battles. Other states with the updated income shares model, said Doherty, have shown a decrease in conflicts over the custody of a child.

Despite agreeing that there should be a transition to an income shares model, the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee, a group whose task is to periodically review the state’s child support guidelines, is still in the process of constructing a legislative draft to present to the General Assembly. It was expected to be presented last spring. Michael Gerhardt, who consults with the Illinois Fathers and other organizations that are active in family court reform, said that the issues lie with the specifics of the formula and how parenting time is factored in.

Currently, said Gerhardt, the battle is whether to use a gross or net model when looking at each parent’s income.

“No one has shown or agreed on a formula as they are too engrossed in the gross versus net argument,” said Gerhardt.

The other even greater battle is determining how much time a parent needs to spend with the child in order for it to play a factor in determining child support. Illinois is proposing that the noncustodial parent has to have at least 40 percent overnight time.

“My opinion is that it makes no sense,” said Gerhardt. “The goal is for a child to be able to be supported when with either parent. At what percentage of time does a parent have fixed costs such as providing a bed, clothes and utilities? I guarantee that it is less than 40 percent.”

The members of the Child Support Advisory Committee include politicians, lawyers, judges and legislators. Who lacks representation, said Gerhardt, are parents. More specifically, he said, obligor parents who will be affected the most are missing.

An updated system is long overdue. Despite this, the process still remains an extensive one, and the reform is not likely to be introduced until next year.

7 Responses to “Seeking child support reform in Illinois”

  1. Carl L. Washington
    September 17, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    I agree that the child support overhaul should be completed as soon as possible to match what the rest of the United States is doing. This would resolve a lot of time in courts fighting over who should have custody if the children. Illinois has managed a reliable and valuable spousal maintenance plan so lets move forward with an updated and robust child support plan which will benefit both parties.

  2. ronetta rushing
    September 21, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    I hope you are not basing the new calculations Missouri’s model. If you add overnight credits into your formula for calculations all you are doing is providing a financial incentive for Custodial Parents to withhold visitation from Custodial parents. This is a problem all over the United States. You will be taking a step backwards and not forwards. This new proposal does not benefit children, children do best when they have both parents in their lives. When you tie child support to visitation in any way, you are making a mistake. Visitation is not an issue that local police will usually enforce. It is considered to be a “civil matter”.You are taking a step backwards, not forward.

  3. Greg Rogers
    September 21, 2014 at 9:27 am #

    #abolishchildsupport – End it all. There is no point. It destroyed my child hood. I can only imagine how many other children’s lives it’s wrecking vs helping.

  4. David Fields
    October 10, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Does anyone know the status of this? This needs to happen.

  5. Kevin
    October 31, 2014 at 5:56 am #

    Illinois is stuck in the 1960s. Fathers are much more involved in kids lives than in the 60s so why should they be treated as a minority parent, and automatically pay x%? Why don’t we start with 50-50 visitation (which is basically what I finally received), and assuming income are similar for both parents no child support!! In today’s situation a woman making a million dollars with 2 children would receive 28% of the fathers 50k income even if he spent 45% of the time with the kids…….comical!

  6. Chris
    November 3, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    I am the non-custodial parent and have my children overnight more than 50% of the time, and pay child support. The kids and I have a great relationship, but my ex-spouse has made a Petition to Modify the existing divorce decree to remove the visitation and increase the child support based on baseless claims and/or facts twisted out of context. Now I am spending thousands of dollars in legal costs defending a fundamentally unfair system.

  7. Sarah
    February 5, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    Does anyone happen to know when this change might happen? I can’t find anything about the status of this at all…

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