Can an Illinois Child Support Order Be Modified Due to COVID-19?
As this year draws to a close, Illinois residents and people throughout the world are no doubt looking forward to a healthier and happier new year. The coronavirus pandemic changed our way of life in 2020, and we all did our best to adjust to a “new normal.” In a concerted effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus, federal, state, and local officials issued orders to limit in-person gatherings and require that face masks be worn indoors. Many non-essential Illinois businesses were closed, and those that were allowed to stay open have reduced their staff and hours of operation. As a result, numerous individuals lost their jobs and filed for unemployment over the past nine months. This economic downturn has led some parents who are divorced or who were never married to worry about how they are going to pay their bills, including meeting their child support obligations.
Illinois Child Support Laws
There are many issues that need to be addressed in a divorce when children are involved, and unmarried parents may also need to consider these matters when they break up. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on certain matters, the court becomes involved. A judge will make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. Under Illinois law, child support orders are based on a formula that includes both parents’ net incomes. This is referred to as the Income Shares model, and it is meant to ensure that both parents contribute toward the costs of raising their children.
Circumstances That Warrant a Child Support Order Modification
Once a child support order is issued in an Illinois divorce or child custody case, the payment amount may be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if a parent’s earning ability or a child’s financial needs have changed, that could be reason to request a modification.
The main reasons why a child support order may be adjusted or modified include:
- An increase in income for either parent
- A decrease in income for either parent
- A change in the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody)
- A change to the parenting time (visitation) schedule
- The emancipation of the children
Whether a parent is seeking to increase or decrease child support, he or she will have to prove a substantial change in circumstances. During COVID-19, this proof could include unemployment records or bank account statements. It is important to note that an increase in the ability to make payments can warrant modification, regardless of whether the child’s needs have increased or not. According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, if a parent has a 20 percent change in net income, that is considered a substantial change in his or her ability to pay.
In some cases, a change to the employment situation of a parent who pays child support, whether voluntary or involuntary, can result in a substantial decrease in income. In this scenario, a court may grant a parent’s request to temporarily or permanently reduce child support payments, as long as the career change was made in good faith. Likewise, if the payee experiences a reduction in income, this may warrant an increase in child support. Parents who experience income changes due to COVID-19 should file a petition for child support modification as soon as possible, since until a modification is made, their child support obligations will continue.
Contact a Geneva, IL Divorce Attorney
The COVID-19 crisis has impacted people in many different ways. At The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates, we understand the challenges divorced parents face, especially this year. Attorney Warlick has nearly 40 years of experience, both as a skilled trial attorney and as a master negotiator, and he assists with all types of divorce and family law matters, including child support order modifications or enforcements. Call our dedicated Kane County child support lawyer today at 630-232-9700 to schedule a private consultation and learn how we can help with your case.