Parents have an obligation under the law to financially support their children. This is true whether the mother and father are married, legally separated, divorced, or were never married. A parent who fails to pay court-ordered child support can be held in contempt of court and could face other criminal penalties.
What is the Illinois law on failure to pay child support?
Penalties for failure to pay child support are stated in the Illinois Non-Support Act at 750 ILCS 16. Under the act, a parent is guilty of failure to support a child if they:
- Without lawful excuse, deserts or willfully refuses to provide for support or maintenance of a child or children in need of support or maintenance, when the parent has the ability to provide the support;
- Willfully fails to pay a support obligation required under a court or administrative support order, if it has remained unpaid for longer than six months, or if the amount in arrears is greater than $5,000, when the parent has the ability to provide the support;
- Leaves the state with the intent of evading a support obligation required under a court or administrative support order, if the support obligation has remained unpaid for more than six months, or the amount of arrears is greater than $10,000; or
- Willfully fails to pay support required under a court or administrative order, if it has remained unpaid for more than one year, or the amount in arrears is greater than $20,000, when the parent has the ability to provide the support.
There is a presumption of the ability to pay support under the law. The statute states:
“The existence of a court or administrative order of support that was not based on a default judgment and was in effect for the time period charged in the indictment or information creates a rebuttable presumption that the obligor has the ability to pay the support obligation for that time period.”
What are the penalties for failure to pay child support in Illinois?
Depending on the specific offense, failure to support may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Upon conviction, a parent who failed to meet child support obligations could be facing imprisonment, fines, and restitution.
Fines run from:
- $1,000 to $5,000 if child support has remained unpaid for more than two years, or the arrears is more than $1,000 but does not exceed $10,000; to
- $5,000 to $10,000 if child support has remained unpaid for more than five years, or the arrears is greater than $10,000 but does not exceed $20,000; to
- $10,000 to $25,000 if child support has remained unpaid for more than eight years or the amount of arrears is greater than $20,000.
Restitution is ordered in an amount equal to the total unpaid child support at the time of sentencing. Amounts paid are first allocated to current support, then to restitution, and then to fines.
What remedies are available if you do not receive child support when due?
If the other parent fails to pay court-ordered child support, they can be held in contempt of court and may face additional penalties, such as jail time, probation, and driver’s license suspension. Wage garnishment is another remedy. You can file a request with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) to have the amount owed deducted from the other parent’s wages.
DCSS uses various other methods to collect child support, including seizing bank accounts, filing liens on property, and intercepting tax refunds. If the parent who has failed to pay child support is in a business partnership, the court may order that some assets be used toward child support payments.
Do you need a lawyer to collect unpaid child support?
If it becomes necessary to ask a judge to hold the other parent in contempt for failure to pay child support, you may benefit from representation from an experienced divorce attorney. You will need to file a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause with the court. The parent who failed to pay child support will have to show the court that they had good reason not to pay (such as job loss).
If there has been a history of non-payment, the judge may order the other parent to pay a specific amount by a certain date, as well as interest on the arrears. (Interest accrues at 9% on child support payments more than 30 days overdue.) If he or she fails to comply, the judge may order jail time.
At Beermann LLP in Chicago and North Shore, we focus our practice exclusively on divorce and family law. Our team of attorneys is at the top of their field and known for achieving top-notch results.