What Happens When You Cannot Afford To Pay Child Support
Sometimes, life changes simply happen. A good job may evaporate, a relationship may end, or another factor may serve to significantly change your financial reality. When this happens, it may affect your child support payments. Failing to comply with your obligations will lead you into considerable trouble, but there are ways to modify your payment.
How Child Support Is Calculated
As of July 1, 2017, child support payments in Illinois are calculated using a formula based on both parents’ income and the number of children being supported. It sounds self-evident that your support payments should change when your income does, but for a variety of reasons, many parents do not petition for a change in payments immediately. Some believe that their circumstances are temporary so modification is unnecessary. Others are too ashamed to admit their loss of income. Some simply believe that they can handle what they think is a “personal matter” on their own.
There is also sometimes a misinterpretation as to what income amount is used to calculate support. In Illinois, support is determined using the parents’ net income—which refers to all income from all sources minus statutorily allowable deductions for taxes and other expenses. In addition, the court has the discretion to amend the amount of support if the formula provides an amount that is not reasonable given a particular set of circumstances. It is not common, however, for the court to exercise this power.
When You Cannot Pay
When you are unable to pay your child support, it is important that you take action. It is possible in most states, including Illinois, to file a Petition to Modify Child Support, usually in the court where your original support order was entered. You will have to show evidence proving that a significant change in your circumstances has occurred, after which the court will consider your request. If you submit sufficient evidence in good faith, the petition will likely be granted. The state considers it better for parents to pay what they can rather than paying nothing at all.
It is important to file your petition as quickly as possible. If you allow time to lapse, you may be found in contempt for not fulfilling the original support order. If that happens, any number of actions may be taken in order for the state to recover the arrearage. The most common include wage garnishment, seizure of tax refunds, and liens placed on any property you may own. If a court holds that you willfully refused to pay, however, you may be fined or even jailed for failure to obey your divorce decree or child support order.
If your situation becomes so dire that you end up filing for bankruptcy, be advised that child support is not dischargeable in either Chapter 7 or 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The obligation will remain, even after if your other debts are discharged or written off by your creditors.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help
If you need help working out a way to pay your child support obligations, or you need assistance in modifying them, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation today.