Child Support and Parental Income in Illinois: Understanding the Impact

Child Support
Child Support and Parental Income in Illinois: Understanding the Impact
April 15, 2024
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In Illinois, child support calculations are significantly influenced by the incomes of both parents. This system ensures that children receive a fair amount of financial support, reflecting the parents’ financial abilities and maintaining the child’s standard of living post-divorce or separation. Here’s a comprehensive overview of how parental income, including instances of unemployment, affects child support in Illinois.

1. Overview of Illinois Child Support Model

Illinois employs the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. This model considers the combined adjusted net income of both parents and apportions child support based on each parent’s contribution to this combined income. The goal is to replicate the proportion of financial support the child would have received if the family had remained intact.

2. Determining Parental Income

Parental income is a broad term that includes wages, salaries, bonuses, dividends, and income from self-employment. Other potential income sources such as rental income, retirement pensions, and social security benefits are also considered. Illinois law aims to capture a comprehensive picture of a parent’s financial resources to accurately determine child support obligations.

Key Considerations:

  • Gross Income: Initially, all income is measured on a gross basis.
  • Adjusted Net Income: This is calculated by subtracting federally mandated deductions, such as state and federal income taxes, health insurance premiums, mandatory retirement contributions, and prior obligations of support or alimony.

3. Impact of Unemployment on Child Support

Unemployment can drastically affect child support calculations. However, the response to a parent’s unemployment is nuanced:

If the Unemployment is Voluntary

If a court determines that unemployment is voluntary, Illinois can impute income. This means the court will assign a hypothetical income based on the parent’s previous employment history, educational qualifications, and the prevailing job opportunities in the region. The imputed income aims to reflect what the parent should realistically be earning.

If the Unemployment is Involuntary

In cases of involuntary unemployment, such as layoffs, the court may adjust child support obligations temporarily. This adjustment reflects the current actual income. However, these parents are typically required to demonstrate active efforts in seeking new employment.

4. Adjustments for Low-Income Non-Custodial Parents

Illinois child support guidelines account for the financial protection of low-income non-custodial parents. A minimum support order, often set at $40 per month per child, can be instituted to prevent undue hardship on the non-custodial parent while still providing for the child’s needs.

5. Periodic Review and Modification of Support Orders

Child support orders are not static and can be modified upon a significant change in circumstances. Significant changes include a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s income, a change in the needs of the child, or changes in custody arrangements. Parents facing financial hardships due to unemployment or other reasons are encouraged to seek a modification of the support order rather than defaulting on payments.

6. Legal Considerations and Recommendations

Navigating child support with fluctuating parental incomes, especially with unemployment, can be complex. It is advisable for parents to:

  • Document Financial Changes: Keep thorough records of your employment status, job applications submitted, interviews, and any job offers received.
  • Seek Legal Advice: Consult with family law attorneys who can provide guidance based on current laws and personal circumstances.
  • Promptly Seek Modifications: If you experience a significant change in financial circumstances, petition for a modification of the child support order as soon as possible to avoid accruing arrears.


In Illinois, the impact of parental income on child support is direct and significant. The system is designed to adapt to the financial realities of both parents, ensuring that child support orders remain fair and reflective of current circumstances. Whether dealing with unemployment or other income changes, understanding these guidelines helps parents manage their obligations and supports the welfare of their children effectively.

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