For a long time, child support was calculated almost exclusively as a strict percentage of the non-custodial parent’s net income. By way of example, a non-custodial parent was required to pay twenty percent (20%) of his or her net income to the custodial parent for child support for one child between the parties, twenty-eight percent (28%) for two children between the parties, and so on. On July 1, 2017, Illinois moved away from this framework in favor of what is known as the “income-shares model.” This model did two things. One, it more directly factored into the equation the income of the custodial parent for purposes of calculating child support; and two, it more directly took into account the amount of parenting time (formerly known as visitation) that the non-custodial parent has with the child. In fact, if the non-custodial parent reached a threshold of 146 nights of overnight parenting time in the calendar year, his or her child support obligation could drop significantly. This particular change to the child support law, while well-intentioned, continues to have some negative unintentional consequences.

Directly taking into account the parenting schedule when calculating child support has led to increased litigation over the parenting schedule itself as both parties know that it has serious ramifications in terms of the amount of child support that one has to pay or that one will receive from the other party. As a result, parties offer false narratives about what parenting time he or she historically had with the child in hopes of securing a more liberal parenting schedule simply to obtain a discount on his/her child support obligation. Likewise, the flip side of this coin is that the custodial parent may be more restrictive in the parenting schedule that he or she may agree to simply to avoid a reduction in the child support payment that she or he may receive if the non-custodial were to reach the requisite 146-night threshold. In both instances, the discerning lawyer is better able to bring to the court’s attention exactly what the other party’s true intentions are thereby securing for his or her client a) what they may be entitled to in the way of the proper child support calculation and b) the most appropriate parenting schedule based on the best interest of the child – not what may be expedient for the other party in terms of the child support calculation. Here, having competent, experienced counsel helps to navigate the child support – visitation quandary.

Jason L. Hurst, Divorce and Family Law

BEERMANN is the Family Law Firm That Cares.

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