Child support orders in Illinois can be amended at any time, and for any number of reasons. Either parent can request that the orders be amended as circumstances change and the needs of the child evolve. Parents merely need to show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrant modification of the orders.
Requirements in Illinois
Illinois law allows for modification of child support orders provided there are substantial changes in circumstances or the income of either parent or the legal status of the child. Substantial changes may include:
- A substantial increase in the obligor parent’s income via a raise, new job, etc.
- A decrease in the obligor parent’s income through a job loss, disability, etc.
- Increases in the child’s need due to disability or other circumstances.
- The child has reached the age of maturity and has dropped out of high school.
- The child has moved out of the recipient parent’s home.
- The child joins the military, gets married or becomes emancipated.
The court has the authority to modify child support orders to cover the basic needs of the child These needs include food, clothing, housing, transportation, medical care, daycare, extracurricular activities, and education related expenses. As such, the court has wide discretion when considering whether or not to accept the stated reasons and grant the request for modification of the child support orders.
In cases where the Department of Healthcare & Family Services are providing assistance, requests to modify child support can be granted if either parent can show that there is a 20% or greater difference between the current order and what could be granted from a modified order. Moreover, these requests can only be granted when 36 months or more has elapsed since the last child support order was entered or last modified by the court.
Retroactive Reduction and Increases
Child support may be reduced retroactively based on the filing date of the motion to modify the child support orders. If there is a discrepancy between the date the orders were filed, and the date the respondent received the notice, the court has the ability to reduce the child support that accrues during this period. Retroactive reductions are rare, but the court does have the authority to grant them in certain circumstances. For instance, if a parent is awarded full custody during the interim, or if a significant event occurred such as the loss of income or medical disability leading to the inability to pay.
Similarly, the courts may allow for retroactive increases in child support orders. For example, retroactive increases may be ordered if the obligor parent fails to notify the recipient parent of any increases to income via job promotion, the sale of assets, etc. In such cases, the recipient parents child support attorney may also request that the court to assess interest penalties on the obligor parent.
Substantial Circumstances that are “Self-Inflicted”
Should a parent’s income drop dramatically due to a voluntary change in employment, such as quitting a high-paying job as an executive to take a job as a clerk, the court is likely to deny a request to reduce child support payments. The court has the discretion to determine whether a substantial decrease in income has been made in an effort to reduce an obligor parent’s child support obligation. The obligor parent would need to show that any reduction in income was made in good faith in order for the court to grant their request. Additionally, any request for reduction or increase would only be granted for the period following the last child support order.
However, some self-inflicted injuries can result in the decreasing of child support orders. For example, if an obligor parent was a lifelong smoker who then developed cancer, or an extreme skier who became paralyzed, their lifestyle choices would have no bearing on the court’s decision. Indeed, the presence of a serious health affliction would be considered regardless of the reasons the individual developed the disease or injury.
Enforcing Out-of-Court Agreements
Many parents seek to assign and manage child support without a court order. This is risky and in fact, the court may determine that such agreements are not enforceable. While parents may meet to discuss modifications to child support orders, it is the court that will have the authority to determine whether the orders are in line with state law and are in the best interests of the child.
Out-of-Court agreements have little standing in Illinois and there are numerous cases of parents seeking additional child support that they claim they were entitled to receive. In cases where out-of-court agreements exist, it is crucial for both parties to maintain accurate records that show precisely how much they have earned, how much they have paid, and how much was needed to meet the basic needs of the child.