A parent has a legal obligation to support his or her children. This is true even in the midst of a divorce. Depending on any the situation, a person may have an obligation to help support his or her (soon-to-be) ex-spouse as well. However, many people confuse the two obligations, when in reality child support and maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support) are very different, not least of all because the right to collect belongs to different parties.
Child support is a right that belongs to a child, not their parents, though the actual payments may be received and administered by the child’s parent. It is defined as court-ordered payments usually made by the parent with fewer parental responsibilities or less parenting time to help support his or her children. In Illinois, the obligation to pay support exists, if ordered, until that child turns 18 years old. If the child is still attending high school at that age, however, the support obligation is extended until they either graduate or turn 19, whichever comes first.