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Seeking child support reform in Illinois

Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013

Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 21:02

 

About two years have passed since the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee recommended that Illinois change the way it calculates child support.

Despite this recommendation and the fact that 38 states have already reformed their child support calculation models since the 1980s, Illinois appears to be less motivated to act quickly in updating a system that is outdated.

“I think it affects a lot of people and doesn't get talked about much,” said Todd Bottom, an advanced doctoral student at DePaul who has been studying divorce and fathers' well-being. “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 Illinois uses is called “percentage of obligatory net income.” Under this model, the noncustodial parent pays a flat percentage of his or her income based on the number of children. It fails to take into account the income of the parent who has custody and the amount of time the noncustodial parent spends with the child.

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

The newly proposed income shares model looks at each parent's income and considers how much time the noncustodial parent spends with the child. Under the current model, how much the custodial parent earns is irrelevant.

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

The new model is about more than just financial fairness. It is better for the child since it will result in less conflict and therefore, fewer custody battles. Other states with the updated income shares model, said Doherty, have shown a decrease in conflicts over the custody of a child.

Despite agreeing that there should be a transition to an income shares model, the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee, a group whose task is to periodically review the state's child support guidelines, is still in the process of constructing a legislative draft to present to the General Assembly. It was expected to be presented last spring. Michael Gerhardt, who consults with the Illinois Fathers and other organizations that are active in family court reform, said that the issues lie with the specifics of the formula and how parenting time is factored in.

Currently, said Gerhardt, the battle is whether to use a gross or net model when looking at each parent's income.

“No one has shown or agreed on a formula as they are too engrossed in the gross versus net argument,” said Gerhardt.

The other even greater battle is determining how much time a parent needs to spend with the child in order for it to play a factor in determining child support. Illinois is proposing that the noncustodial parent has to have at least 40 percent overnight time.

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

The members of the Child Support Advisory Committee include politicians, lawyers, judges and legislators. Who lacks representation, said Gerhardt, are parents. More specifically, he said, obligor parents who will be affected the most are missing.

An updated system is long overdue. Despite this, the process still remains an extensive one, and the reform is not likely to be introduced until next year.

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7 comments

Anonymous
Wed Apr 9 2014 14:06
Here is a Illinois scenario.The divorced couple have 3 children all under 12 yrs of age, the mother and father both avg 35k per yr. The father has the children 7-8 nights out of the month. He pays 125.00 per week in support a number ,I might add they agreed upon. Had the judge decided it probably would have been around 170.00, does the father in this situation have a right to complain? Cause he does, and he acts like HE is a victim of Illinois's outdated laws FEEDBACK WELCOMED!!
Todd L. Bottom
Sat Mar 29 2014 21:17
Who is the idiot 'anonymous' person that wrote, "The custodial parent gives 100% of their time and at least 110% of their income to their children"? How can someone give 110% of their income? This person obviously does not understand the issue. Likely a woman who will NEVER have to experience the possibility of not being with her children.
Anonymous
Thu Oct 31 2013 00:29
There is a reason that 38 states having income based child support. Its fair. The idea of the mother making $150K/yr and the father making $90K/yr and having the mother receive the children as the custodial parent and the father having to pay a fixed percentage is clearly wrong. On the same token, a mother who chooses not to work and uses the father as a bread winner is also clearly wrong as it creates additional conflict that hurts the children when the mother uses them as weapons... My vote is for the State of Illinois to complete a thorough analysis on the likelihood on manipulating the NET vs GROSS calculation, and then making a decision on NET vs GROSS and making it proportional to each parents income. Alimony should be grandfathered to mothers prior to 1996 and not be allowed from 1/1/1996 forward. It's a new world and woman have equal rights. If woman choose not to invest in themselves, so be it. Its the same for retirement, etc... If they need more free time, then they should provide more parenting time to an able father. If either parent is irresponsible, that should be a personal problem.
Anonymous
Tue Oct 29 2013 09:25
How about both parents are allowed the same opportunity to be parents after the divorce? i.e. 50/50 shared time and no child support. Seems fair to me.
Anonymous
Mon Sep 23 2013 02:15
The custodial parent gives 100% of their time and at least 110% of their income to their children. Non-custodial parents who were giving 100% of their income to their families are now only required to pay anywhere from 20 -35%, depending on how many children they have. That is completely ludicrous. If there will be an income shares model, hopefully, they will require the non custodial parent use the same percentage the mother is paying ou of her paycheck to benefit her children. If she uses 90% of her own pay to raise her children, shouldn't father's be required to pay 90% of their pay? Bare minimum a non custodial should pay is 50% of his income. And adultery should absolutely affect whether a person receives maintenance. If a husband committed adultery and left, he should be required to pay alimony for the duration the children are being raised if not, a minimum of 10 years.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 13 2013 19:22
Yea, we need to consider both parents income and the amount of time spent and expenses of BOTH parents. Also, only making the changes if the non-custodial parent can get 40% of the overnights in ridiculous. There are too many people profiting from custody battles, divorce, and the child support agencies and industry to get changes that are good for kids.
Anonymous
Wed Feb 13 2013 19:22
Yea, we need to consider both parents income and the amount of time spent and expenses of BOTH parents. Also, only making the changes if the non-custodial parent can get 40% of the overnights in ridiculous. There are too many people profiting from custody battles, divorce, and the child support agencies and industry to get changes that are good for kids.




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