Unemployment and Child Support: Your Questions Answered

wheaton divorce lawyerChild support helps parents pay for housing, childcare, education and extracurriculars, and other child-related expenses. Illinois courts use an Income Shares Model to calculate child support payments. This model uses both spouses’ net incomes to determine a child support payment amount that provides the needed financial support without overburdening the paying parent. However, determining child support is not always as straightforward as it may seem. One situation that can make child support calculations more complicated is a parent’s unemployment.

Is an Unemployed Parent Required to Pay Child Support?

Illinois courts prioritize a child’s best interests above all else during child-related legal matters. A child’s financial needs do not change because a parent becomes unemployed. Consequently, a parent without an income is not automatically absolved of their child support obligation. However, a parent who is struggling to fulfill his or her obligation may be able to request a child support modification and reduce his or her payments in some situations.  

Can a Parent Avoid Child Support By Quitting Their Job?

Some parents lose their job due to no fault of their own. For example, many parents were laid off from their jobs due to COVID-19. However, some parents try to avoid paying child support by quitting their job or taking a lower-paying job. When deciding whether to reduce a parent’s child support obligation, Illinois courts consider the reason for the parent’s unemployment or underemployment.

If a parent loses his or her job and makes genuine efforts to regain suitable employment, the court may reduce the parent’s child support obligation. However, if a parent voluntarily quits or makes little effort to get a new job, the court will have much less sympathy for the parent’s financial predicament.

How is Child Support Calculated When a Parent Has Zero Income?

Because child support is based on the parents’ respective net incomes, you may assume that a parent with zero income has zero child support obligation. However, Illinois courts may use a parent’s “potential income” to calculate child support in some cases. A parent’s potential income may be based on his or her:

  • Work history
  • Qualifications and education
  • Available job opportunities
  • Average earning levels in the area
  • Assets

If a parent does not have enough work history to determine his or her potential income, the court presumes that the parent’s potential income is 75 percent of the current Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Contact a DuPage County Child Support Lawyer

If you want to modify your child support order or you need help enforcing a child support order, contact MKFM Law. Our Wheaton family law attorneys can provide the legal guidance and representation you need. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation.



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