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Homewood divorce lawyerOne of a parent’s most important responsibilities and legal obligations is to provide financially for their child’s basic needs. Many Illinois parents who are no longer married, or who were never married to their child’s other parent, rely on court-ordered child support to ensure the other parent’s fair contributions. However, married couples are typically left to manage child-related expenses on their own. This can make things difficult for a parent who is still legally married but in the midst of the divorce process, especially if their spouse is withholding income and assets.

If you are trying to get a divorce from a spouse who has abandoned you and your children, or who has cut you off financially, you may be able to petition for temporary child support before your marriage has been legally dissolved. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you understand your options.

Petitioning for Temporary Child Support

Providing for your children’s needs during the divorce process can be challenging, especially with the legal costs you are likely to incur. If you are struggling to provide and your spouse is not contributing, you can request a temporary child support order by filing a petition with the court that has jurisdiction over your divorce. Your petition will need to include a financial affidavit using a standard, statewide form, through which you will have the opportunity to explain your circumstances. You should also include any relevant evidence that supports your affidavit, including your bank statements, pay stubs, and recent tax returns.

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Joliet family law attorneyChild support is an important source of financial assistance for a single parent. If you are an unmarried or divorced parent, you may have questions and concerns about getting your child support. You may wonder if your child’s other parent is still required to pay support even if he or she is unemployed. The answer to this question depends on the reason for the unemployment and other factors.

Is the Unemployment Voluntary or Involuntary?

Millions of parents have lost their jobs or had to find lower-paying work due to COVID-19 shutdowns. They may be doing everything they can to afford their child support obligation but end up falling short of the expected amount. On the other hand, some parents attempt to evade child support responsibilities by claiming that they cannot find adequate employment. The first question that must be answered regarding child support obligations for unemployed or underemployed parents is whether unemployment or underemployment is voluntary. Has the parent quit his or her job or been laid off? Has the parent made genuine efforts to gain suitable employment? If the parent’s unemployment is voluntary, is this unemployment in the child’s best interests?

Income Shares Method for Child Support Calculations

Illinois uses a child support calculation method called “income shares.” Each parent’s net income is used to determine a child support obligation that is reasonable and affordable while still providing the financial support the child needs. According to the formula, the lower a parent’s income, the less he or she pays in child support. However, If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and this is not in the child’s best interests, the court may use the parent’s potential income to determine child support. This is the income that the parent could be earning if he or she were fully employed. If a parent is involuntarily unemployed or underemployed and makes a legitimate effort to find and maintain adequate employment, the parent’s actual income will be used to determine the child support obligation.

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Joliet family law attorneysFor those going through a divorce, the financial demands that come along with the legal process can make things challenging, especially for lower-earning or stay-at-home spouses. Rarely do spouses make the same amount of money, which can sometimes lead to issues throughout the marriage, divorce, and months following the split. In order to make up for this financial discrepancy, Illinois law requires divorcing couples to discuss spousal maintenance, also known as spousal support, and divorcing parents to create an agreement regarding child support obligations. Those in a cooperative divorce can typically create these legal designations with the help of their attorneys, while those battling it out in a courtroom will have these decisions made for them by a judge. Your divorce agreement is meant to last the tests of time, but what about when circumstances change? Many divorcees will seek out new romantic relationships as time passes, and in some cases, these new partners can impact the details of your divorce agreement.

Spousal Support

Any changes to your divorce agreement are known as post-divorce modifications. In any instance of adjustment, the requesting party must show a substantial change in circumstances. When it comes to spousal support obligations, the following circumstances warrant the termination of spousal maintenance:

  1. The death of either party
  2. The remarriage of the party who receives maintenance
  3. The cohabitation of the receiving party with another person on a continuing conjugal basis

As you can see, living with a new partner can lead to the automatic termination of spousal support. The purpose of spousal support is for one spouse to help the other until it is no longer financially necessary. These financial obligations are not meant to last forever. In fact, there are three different types of spousal support agreements that may be made. Fixed-term maintenance requires the paying party to provide financial support for a specific period of time, and at the end of that period they are no longer responsible for assisting their former spouse. Indefinite maintenance is an agreement with no specified end date, leaving this determination up in the air until modification or termination is requested. Reviewable maintenance sets a particular arrangement for a specified period of time, having both parties review the arrangement every few years.

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Will County child support enforcement lawyerWhen parents get divorced, there are a number of additional concerns that are unique to their situation. Both you and your co-parent will need to decide who will care for your child when, what parental responsibilities you will each take on, and how much child support will be provided from one parent to another. Most divorcing parents will have some form of child support order assigned to them, unless the parenting is 50/50 and the parents have almost identical incomes. How frequently does this happen? Not very often. 

Child support orders are meant to ensure that the parent with less parenting time is financially supporting their child, even if they do not care for the child as frequently as their co-parent. Unfortunately, child support payments do not always go as smoothly as they should, and your former spouse may not be meeting their payment deadlines each month. If this is the case, there are a few ways to enforce the financial assistance with the help of the court.

Determining the Amount Owed

Before any legal enforcements can be made, a judge must have proof of how much child support has been paid and how much is still owed. Finding documentation of these payments is dependent upon how the support is paid. For those who make payments through the Illinois State Disbursement Unit (SDU) or circuit court’s office, these two offices can provide a list of payments that have already been made and the amount still owed by the paying parent. It is important to keep your own documentation of these payments, in order to compare your records with those from the SDU or circuit court. If your co-parent simply pays you personally on a monthly basis (this is relatively uncommon), you will need to present your own evidence of the missing payments. From there, you can determine how much is still owed to you.

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Can I Be Ordered to Pay College Expenses as Part of My Illinois Divorce?In Illinois, child support stops once the child turns 18 or when they have graduated high school – whichever happens later. Under Illinois divorce law, the court may order a parent to help pay for a child’s college expenses after child support has ended if the child is planning to continue their education. Although child support is required to be paid even for parents who never got married, Illinois does not require college expense payments to be made. If your child is planning to go to college, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to file a petition for college expense payments to be granted to your child since it will not automatically go into effect.

College Expenses

A support order can include several expenses related to college, such as:

  • Registration and application fees
  • Tuition
  • Room and board (on or off campus)
  • Educational fees
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Books
  • Travel to and from school
  • Additional expenses

If the court grants college expenses to be paid, child support continues under the Illinois “college expenses” law that applies to non-minor children. 

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