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How to File for Child Support in Illinois

May 31, 2024
Knowing how to file for child support can save parents a lot of time and stress. Fortunately, residents of Glencoe can do so online with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services or file a petition with the court system. Before you file, gather financial information and other types of paperwork to make the process easier.
Little boy leaning on his mom. how to file for child support

Child support can get complicated quickly, so it helps to meet with an attorney. Call Silberman Law Group today at (312) 593-0075 for help with child support matters and other family law issues.

Child Support in Illinois

The median household income in Illinois is $78,433. This amount can drop drastically after a divorce, but the money necessary to raise a child does not. Both parents may be living with leaner budgets, and one parent may have to pay child support to the other.

The amount of support is based on factors such as both parents’ income and the parenting time each has with the child. Other variables include the number of children the parent is supporting, the needs of the child, the child’s standard of living if the parents stayed together, and healthcare and childcare costs.

Why Formal Child Support Agreements Are Best

Some parents work out child support agreements between themselves. Other times, they have formal agreements but do not follow them, especially as circumstances and the child’s needs change over time. This is risky.

For instance, formal agreements are legally enforceable, clear, and specific. They offer peace of mind and more opportunities for enforcement. To name one, wage garnishments are possible with formal agreements, while they are not for informal agreements. Official child support can also mean consistency and stability for the child.

Child support modifications are possible if the child’s needs change or a parent experiences a major life change. The parents can agree between themselves on the changes and have a court review and legitimize them.

Steps to File for Child Support in Illinois

If you have primary custody of your child, you generally can file for child support from the other parent. Some situations are not as clear-cut, for example, if a divorce is pending. Some parents may think they cannot get child support until a divorce case is finalized. This can be a problem, since the timeline of a contested divorce can stretch months or years.

Fortunately, it is possible to get temporary support while a divorce is pending. You would typically file a motion for temporary child support (relief) with the court handling your divorce case. Your child custody lawyer should be able to handle these steps and many others.

In any case, parents typically can file for child support online or with the court. Filing online may work better if you and your co-parent agree on the terms of support, are willing to cooperate, and want a route that is more convenient and faster than going through the courts.

Petitioning the court for child support is necessary in many cases, though. One is for temporary child support during a divorce. Others include complicated or contested cases or if other issues, such as visitation and paternity, are at play.

Collect Important Details and Paperwork

Knowing the technical details of how to file for child support is just one part of the picture. Before you even file, collect general and financial information about yourself, your child, and the other parent. For example, you need names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birth certificates.

Gather at least three months’ worth of pay stubs, tax returns, paperwork about other income sources such as work bonuses, bank statements, public assistance documents, childcare expenses, and health insurance expenses. It is better to have too much paperwork than too little.

Talk With a Lawyer

This step is voluntary, but can make a world of difference. It is much easier to get the child support you need (or to pay the fair amount) the first time around, than to get it wrong and try to fix it after the fact. Modifications typically require that a parent shows a change in circumstances, such as a job loss that drastically reduces the parent’s ability to pay child support.

Many attorneys offer free consultations in Glencoe. To maximize your time, have all paperwork collected and ready to show the attorney. Also, be ready to discuss the issues other than child support with which you need help.

For example, you might need to discuss what happens when your spouse won’t sign divorce papers, or what happens when both you and your spouse want to keep the marital home. A list of specific questions for all issues you want to discuss is helpful.

Fill Out Forms and File

The forms you complete may include a child support petition and financial affidavits. File the forms online or with the court in your county. Be sure to serve the other parent formally, too. If you have a lawyer, this person may handle this step along with many other steps.

Negotiate or Mediate

This step might be mandatory or optional, depending on your situation. Whatever the case, it is possible you might discuss other issues, such as custody and asset division, in addition to child support.

Go to Court Hearings

You may need to go to court hearings. Depending on the hearings’ purpose, your lawyer could be presenting evidence and having you and others testify.

Follow Court Orders in Glencoe

The court may say that child support is necessary. Follow orders relating to the amount, payment schedule, and other aspects. If enforcement is necessary (if one parent does not pay or underpays), then wage garnishments and other methods may result.

Parents should go back to court for enforcement instead of trying to do it themselves. For instance, if Parent B does not pay child support as ordered to Parent A, Parent A has no right to withhold visitation (parenting time) from Parent B. Child custody and child support are not the same issue, and Parent A could actually lose parenting time with this tactic.

Review the child support order once in a while. Make sure it still works for the circumstances and the child’s needs. Go back to court for any needed changes.

Common Challenges When Filing for Child Support in Illinois

Filing for child support often includes challenges. One of the most frequent is calculating the amount of support correctly.

Using the Wrong Numbers

Knowing how to calculate child support in Illinois can be tricky, even if you are good with numbers. For instance, parents might not realize that they can deduct certain things from the income that is counted.

Pretax retirement contributions, public assistance benefits, child support payments parents get for other children, and housing assistance are some types of income or assistance that generally do not go toward the income of a parent for child support purposes.

Similarly, it is not always easy to calculate the parents’ actual income, especially if self-employment, business ownership, or similar situations apply. Parents may be dealing with unpredictable income or have opportunities to underreport income.

Accounting for Underemployment or Unemployment

One parent might not be working to his or her full potential. Depending on the situation, the court could use the parent’s earning potential instead of actual current income to calculate child support.

Finding the Other Parent

Another challenge may occur if the parent asking for support cannot locate the other parent. Location is important for serving court papers and, sometimes, for establishing paternity.

Showing Paternity

If paternity is not yet established, it can slow proceedings. DNA testing and other steps may be necessary.

Understanding the Process

The child support process can require a great deal of research and patience. Bureaucracy can be complex for anyone, and it is important to try to get child support right the first time around, if possible. Lawyers can be helpful.

Navigating Interstate Issues

One parent may live in Glencoe, Illinois, while the other resides in a different state. Interstate issues may mean different state laws and cooperation between the states for enforcement of orders.

Dealing With Other Related Issues

While child support is its own legal issue, other issues such as child custody and parental alienation in Illinois may complicate proceedings. For instance, frustration or anger over dividing assets can make it much harder for the parents to discuss custody and support issues.

Changing Circumstances

Custody agreements may informally change over time, or a parent’s income or ability to work might change. Child support should reflect current circumstances, but change sometimes occurs very gradually. At some point, parents may pay too much or little child support and should return to court for a modification.

Some parents are just beginning to collect their financial paperwork before they file, while others want to modify existing child support orders. Others are somewhere in between these two points. Wherever you are in your process, Silberman Law Group can help. Contact us today.

Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association
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Family law attorney David Silberman is the founding attorney of Silberman Law Group, Family Law and Divorce Attorneys in Northbrook, Illinois. Mr. Silberman has a long track record of success providing his clients with reliable legal advice, protecting their best interests, and helping them obtain successful, sustainable outcomes.

Years of Experience: More than 15 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association