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Wheaton family law attorneysThere are two instances when child support is awarded to parents in Illinois: when parents get divorced or when unmarried parents have a child together. If you are an unmarried parent or soon will be, you may be wondering how you can receive support payments from your child’s other parent. If the child’s biological father has not been officially named the legal father of the child, you will have to establish parentage through the court before requesting child support.

How to Establish Paternity in Illinois

When a married couple has a baby, Illinois law assumes that the husband of the woman who gave birth to the child is the father. However, when an unmarried woman gives birth, there is no assumption of paternity. Parentage can be established through one of several ways. If neither party doubts the paternity of the child, the two parents can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP). This document allows the father to be named on the birth certificate but does not address issues of child support, parenting time, or allocation of parental responsibilities. Another method for establishing parentage is for either parent to file a Petition to Establish Parentage through the county court and participate in the subsequent proceedings. Lastly, parents may seek an Administrative Paternity Order to be established and entered by Healthcare and Family Services’ Child Support Services.

How Will Child Support Amounts Be Decided?

Once legal parentage is established, child support matters can be decided. Since July 1, 2017, Illinois courts have made child support decisions based on an "income shares" model. Under this model, each parent’s income in relation to the parents’ combined income is used to calculate a fair and reasonable child support amount. Factors such as healthcare, parenting time (visitation), and other elements may influence the final child support obligation, but the base child support obligation is mostly decided based on the combined net income of both parents. A parent who wishes to change a child support order must file a petition for modification of the child support order though the county court. Generally, only a major change in financial circumstances, employment, or disability will justify a modification to an established child support order.

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Wheaton child support lawyersSometimes, 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.

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DuPage County child support lawyersMost parents are aware that in a divorce, a parent is typically required to make payments of child support to help with the costs of raising a child. It may come as a surprise to learn that the method for calculating child support payments in Illinois has not changed very much in the last several decades. Even last year's sweeping family law reforms, which updated the state's approach to divorce and child custody—now called the allocation of parental responsibilities—failed to address the issue of child support. Beginning this summer, however, child support calculations in Illinois will be handled much differently than they are today.

Understanding the Current Law

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) currently directs a court to calculate child support orders as a percentage of the paying parent's income based on the number of children to be supported. The court is granted limited authority to deviate from the set percentages due to special circumstances of each individual case. As written, however, the statute only considers the paying parent's income. The current law does not account for the recipient parent's income or time that the supporting parent spends with his or her child.

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DuPage County child support lawyersWhen a couple has a child together – be they married or not – both parents are legally obligated to provide financial support. Child support orders are the legal manifestation of that obligation, and they outline how much should be paid (generally on a monthly basis). Yet, often, these orders are set up when a child is young, or when a couple first divorces. What happens when life circumstances change?

When the Needs of a Child Have Changed

Children are constantly growing, changing, and evolving. It only makes sense that their needs change, too. Yet not all changes constitute a modification to a child support order. Generally, the shift in needs must be fairly significant. For example, if a child is accepted to an elite educational program, the receiving parent may seek a modification to help cover the tuition. Likewise, if a child is diagnosed with a medical condition or illness and needs extensive medical treatment, a modification may be requested.

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Wheaton divorce lawyersParents choose to stay home with their children for a number of reasons. For some, their family's lifestyle is easily supported by their spouse's income, which gives them the financial flexibility to spend time with their children. Others may stay home out of necessity.

Regardless of the reason – be it to care for a special needs child, a desire to parent full-time, or simply because they can – all are at risk for lifelong poverty, should their marriage end in divorce. If you are a stay-at-home parent and planning on filing for divorce, or have already been served with divorce papers, learn what you need to know about protecting your financial future, and how you can obtain skilled legal counsel, even if you have no assets of your own.

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From our law office in Wheaton, IL the family law and civil litigation law attorneys of Mirabella, Kincaid, Frederick and Mirabella, represent businesses and individual clients throughout the western suburbs of Chicago, Illinois including Wheaton, Naperville, Oak Brook, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, Lombard, Downers Grove, Burr Ridge, Lisle, Elmhurst, Oakbrook Terrace, Winfield, Woodridge, Warrenville and throughout DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties.

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