According to the Illinois Attorney General, there were more than 496,000 child support cases in the Illinois Child Support Program in 2013. These cases affected almost 520,000 children statewide, facilitating $289 million in support payments. As there is nothing to indicate significant change, the numbers are likely to be similar this year.
Under Illinois law, both parents are expected to provide for the needs of the child, including physical, mental, education and health-related needs. Following a divorce or separation, the expectation remains and, in fact, is more likely to legally quantified and enforced. While parents may attempt to negotiate a support arrangement on their own, provisions in the law instruct the court how to calculate the amount of financial support for which one or both parents may be responsible. Once a support case has reached the court, deviations from the formula specified by law are only permitted with specific justification.
The resources and needs of the child and both parents are taken into account, as well as the pre-divorce standard of living and the child’s future expected needs. After consideration of all pertinent information, the court decides which parent is expected to pay support and the amount of required support. When the support ordered is entered by the court, it becomes legally binding and parents who fail to meet their obligations may face fines, probation, or prison.
Most support orders are automatically enforceable until the child reaches age 18 or graduates high school. For many divorce situations, this means the original order may be fine for a few years at a time, but may not be designed to meet the family’s constantly changing circumstances. The Division of Child Support Services is tasked with ensuring support orders issued throughout the state follow the law and provide the intended assistance to the appropriate parties.
The DCSS lays out several scenarios in which a person affected by a child support order may request a medication review:
- The order was entered or reviewed three or more years ago;
- There has been a “substantial change in circumstances” for any involved party;
- Arrangements regarding healthcare coverage were never determined; or
- A review request is received in writing by DCSS from either parent or another state.
This allows significant life changes such as the loss of a job or serious illness to be addressed and possibly reflected in a modified order. The guidelines also recognize that, over time, many seemingly small changes may collectively have a larger impact on a parent’s ability to comply with the original order.
By granting a review request, DCSS is obliged to re-verify income of both parents and to
recalculate the support obligation. As when the order was initially entered, all of the factors and criteria set forth by law must be considered again. Both parents are notified of the review results, and, if they dispute the results, are given 30 days in which to file a request for a redetermination or a hearing. Once a modification is approved and finalized, it is recognized as part of the support order subject to the same enforcement.
If you live in Illinois and are thinking about requesting a modification review, contact an experienced Oak Brook family law attorney. We will review your case and help make sure your support order is appropriate to meet the needs of your family.