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Potential for Child Support Reform in Illinois

 Posted on February 13, 2013 in Child Support

The Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee recommended to Illinois that it change the way to calculates child support about two years ago, but it has not yet happened. So far, 38 other states have reformed their child support calculations model since the 1980s, but Illinois has not budged.

Advanced doctoral student at DePaul University, who has been studying divorce and fathers' well-being, Todd Bottom, said, "I think it affects a lot of people and doesn't get talked about much. 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 used by Illinois is called "percentage of obligatory net income." With this model, the noncustodial parent has to pay a flat percentage of his or her income based on the number of children. This model fails to consider the income of the parents who has custody and the amount of time that the noncustodial parent spends with the children.

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

The new proposal includes considering how much money both parents earn and how much each parent spends with the children.

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

States that have updated to the income shares model have shown a decrease in custody conflicts, said Doherty. The newer model results in less conflict, therefore, fewer custody battles.

Although the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee, a group that is in charge of periodically reviewing the state's child support guidelines, has agreed that there should be a transition to the new model, it is still in the processing of creating a legislative draft to present to the General Assembly.

Originally, it was expected to be presented last spring, however, Michael Gerhardt, consultant of the Illinois Fathers and other family court reform organizations, said that they issues lie within the details of the formula and how the parenting time will be factored in.

Gerhardt said that, at the moment, the battle is about whether to use a gross or net model for each parent's income.

Another battle is how to determine the amount of time a parents needs to spend with a child in order for it to play a part in determining child support. Illinois is proposing that the noncustodial parents must have at least 40 percent of overnight time.

"My opinion is that it makes no sense. 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," said Gerhardt.

This update is clearly long overdue; however, with the way things are going, the reform is likely not to be introduced until next year.

If you are going through a divorce, this reform could affect you. Contact an experienced divorce attorney for more information about this reform and whether or not to take it into account. Attorneys at Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC can help you through your divorce today.

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