As a rule of thumb, most Chicago child support orders need to be modified at least once every five years. That is the average length of time most people work at one job before moving on to the next one. These changes almost always involve either a direct or indirect income change. Most people do not voluntarily leave a job unless it pays substantially more money than their current position. Other people change jobs because of better benefits, like a cheaper health insurance plan or more generous retirement contribution matching plan.
Either party can also change a child support obligation based on changed circumstances. Here, the rules are not so clear-cut, so an aggressive attorney must step in to protect you or your children’s financial rights.
Income-Based Modifications in Illinois
If the obligor’s income has changed 20% or $50 a month, whichever is lower, the judge will modify the child support amount accordingly. The baseline is the prior order and not the prior year. So, if the obligor’s income has increased $49 a month for two years, the judge will change the amount.
There are some ways to tell if a person’s income is higher or lower without examining Illinois bank records. If Father shows up in a new SUV to pick up the kids, Father is probably making more money. Or, if Mother has had a home-based business for more than about six or eight months, that business is probably making money.
One important caveat is that the change must be permanent. To return to the previous example, most Chicago businesses lose money their first few months. Mother could not run to the courthouse and reduce her child support obligation based on this change because it is most likely not permanent.
Moreover, in income reduction cases, the reduction must be in good faith. Obligors cannot accept lower-paying jobs simply to reduce their child support obligations. Bad faith is sometimes hard to establish because the challenging party must normally use circumstantial evidence.
Need-Based Modifications in Chicago
Similarly, the same rules apply to need-based increases and decreases. The moving party has the burden of proof to show a substantial change in circumstances. Illinois law really does not define this phrase, but here are a few common situations:
- Cost of Living Increases: The moving party must show more than general inflation or deflation. The changes must be specific, such as a higher or lower rent or mortgage payment.
- Children’s Needs: In increase cases, courts usually apply a “substantial imbalance” test, which accounts for both the added expense, such as daycare costs, and the obligor’s ability to pay more money. In decrease cases, the change must have been unanticipated in the prior order. Parents expect that their children will get older and no longer need daycare.
- Obligee’s Status Change: Remarriage usually increases a family’s financial resources, and a new job or a raise does the same thing. Most Illinois judges are willing to consider the income of each parent, at least to some extent.
- Parenting Time Changes: The more parenting time that a parent has, the less his/her child support obligation should be.
If there is a dispute as to amounts, the discovery process usually reveals the truth.
Team Up with Experienced Lawyers
The initial child support obligation was never meant to be permanent. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.
(image courtesy of Carlo Navarro)