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Oak Park Family Law AttorneyIf you are getting divorced in Illinois, and have a child under the age of 18 (and in some cases, even a child older than 18), you may be wondering whether you will need to pay child support. When you have your child’s best interests at heart, it is important to know what to expect as you prepare yourself emotionally and financially for life after a divorce. To learn more about how child support works in Illinois, read on, and then contact a highly-skilled divorce attorney for advice. 

Who Pays Child Support? 

Child support payments in Illinois are calculated using the “income shares” model. This model uses both parents’ net incomes, and, along with the amount of time each child spends with each parent, determines whether one parent needs to pay child support. Child support payments are meant to cover a child’s everyday expenses like clothing, food and housing, as well as the costs of education, healthcare and other wellness needs. While the parent with the majority of parenting time is usually the parent to receive child support payments, this is not always the case. 

How Long Do Child Support Payments Last? 

Child support typically ends once a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. If you have more than one child, you can have your child support payments modified as each successive child turns 18. 

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Oak Park Family Law AttorneyParents of minor children who are getting divorced in Illinois (as well as parents who were never married but who share a minor child) will suddenly find that their parenting abilities and habits are under a magnifying glass. Things that seemed fairly mundane before, such as spending time with the children, making important decisions or deciding to move for a new job, are now under tight restrictions detailed at great length in a legally-binding parenting agreement. 

To make sure that you give your children the best chance of success after a divorce, and to ensure you do not run afoul of Illinois family law, it is important to understand the difference between the two primary categories contained in a parenting plan: “Parental responsibilities” (formerly known as “custody”) and “parenting time” (formerly known as “visitation”). 

What are “Parental Responsibilities”? 

“Parental responsibilities” is a term that refers to the rights to make important decisions on behalf of a minor child. Parents often split parental responsibilities, although sometimes one parent may have all of the parental responsibilities allocated to them. If parents can collaborate when creating their parenting agreement, this split can be customized in any number of creative ways. 

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Oak Park Parenting Time LawyerSpouses in Illinois often get divorced because abuse or neglect exists in the marriage. Sometimes, such behavior is directed towards a couple’s children even before the couple decides to separate. Other times, fears of child abuse may suddenly arise after a child comes back from spending parenting time with their other parent and something seems terribly wrong. Regardless of how the issue arose, it is essential to take your hunches about child abuse or neglect seriously. If you are in this situation and wondering whether the situation may justify a parenting agreement modification, read on. 

Do I Need to Show Evidence of Abuse? 

Illinois courts take allegations of child abuse very seriously. However, family court judges are also aware that spouses will sometimes make false or exaggerated claims about abuse to try to get revenge on each other, or to try to keep children away from their other parent. For these reasons, it is essential to have some tangible evidence that child abuse is taking place so something can be done. 

Sometimes, child abuse is obvious. If your child comes home from visiting their other parent and has physical injuries, or claims their parent or someone else hurt them, you may need to contact the authorities right away. But when abuse is more subtle or takes the form of emotional or verbal abuse, gathering evidence can be more difficult. Parents should be cautious about questioning their children about abuse because it may be easy to accidentally give children false memories, or to make it difficult for them to remember what really happened. Help from a therapist or other child psychological experts may be necessary to discover the truth.   

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Oak Park Family Law AttorneyIf you have been through a divorce and have children, you may be the recipient of child support payments, or you may be the one making the payments. The initial payment arrangement is either agreed to during the divorce process or through a court order by a judge ruling on the issue. It is based on certain factors, including the combined income of the two parents, how many children are being supported, and local cost of living charts. However, the courts recognize that living situations can change post-divorce. Child support modifications are available for many changes in post-divorce circumstances, and employment status is one such circumstance.

If the parent making the payments loses their job, they can request a temporary reduction through the court in the amount they have to pay. Either parent can petition the court for a child support modification to change the original order. If the job loss was due to being laid off, being fired, or if they are unable to work due to factors outside of their control, the court is more likely to grant a modification request. However,  if the child support payor voluntarily left their job and has not been making a concerted effort to regain employment, or willingly took a substantial pay cut, the court may deny the request. It is important to attempt to keep making the payments previously ordered by the court in the divorce case until the modification has been approved by a new court order.

The same factors are considered if the parent receiving the child support payments loses their job. They can request a modification to increase the payments they receive to offset their lost income, but, again, the court will look at the reasons for the job loss or pay cut, as well as look at their employment search Efforts.

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Oak Park Family Law AttorneyFathers who are involved in family law court cases usually want to make sure their parental rights will be protected. When a married couple with children gets divorced, both parents will usually have the right to share custody (now known as “parental responsibilities” in Illinois) of their children. However, if a child’s parents are unmarried, the father likely may first need to establish paternity before he will have any legal child custody rights. By understanding when it may be necessary to establish paternity and the rights that will apply to parents and children in paternity cases, fathers can make sure they take the correct legal steps that will allow them to maintain close, ongoing relationships with their children.

Establishing Legal Paternity in Illinois

If a mother is married when her child is born, by law her spouse is presumed to be the  parent of the child. However, if the mother is not married, she and the father may need to take steps to ensure that the father will be recognized as the child’s parent. Even if both parents agree that a man is the child’s father, a failure to legally establish paternity may result in disputes in the future if the parents disagree about how they will share custody, or about other subjects. Without legal rights toward the child, the father may be unable to participate in raising the child or spend regular time with them.

To avoid these types of problems, parents can establish paternity by signing a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form (“VAP”). This may be done immediately after the child’s birth, and hospital personnel can usually assist parents in the completion of this form. Parents may also agree to voluntarily acknowledge paternity at a later date, and they may do so by obtaining a form from their local courthouse or child support office. If both parents do not agree to acknowledge paternity, either parent may pursue a paternity case with the assistance of Illinois Child Support Services, or they may file a petition with the court and ask a judge to order genetic testing to confirm the identity of the child’s father.

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