Illinois courts generally rely on a set of state guidelines to determine a parent’s child support obligations. In theory, this makes calculating support simple–just plug in the correct information and do the math. In practice, there are often disagreements as to what qualifies as the “correct information.”
Court: Judge Acted Prematurely in Considering Ex-Husband’s Possible Divorce
Take this recent decision by the Illinois First District Appellate Court. This child support dispute involves a married couple who previously divorced in 2009. The couple had two children during their marriage. As part of the final divorce decree, the court ordered the ex-husband to pay the ex-wife $112.00 per week in child support.
At the time of the divorce, the husband was self-employed and earned about $400 per week. A year later, after a downturn in the ex-husband’s fortunes, the parties and the court agreed to reduce his child support payments to just $200 per month.
Five years later, in 2015, the ex-wife petitioned the court to modify and increase the ex-husband’s child support payments. The ex-wife cited not just the additional costs of raising her one remaining minor child, but also the likelihood the ex-husband’s income had increased in the intervening five years. In response, the ex-husband asked the court to terminate child support altogether, noting the child herself wished to split her time living with both parents.
At a hearing on the ex-wife’s petition, a dispute arose as to whether or not the income of the ex-husband’s current spouse should count towards recalculating his support obligations under the state guidelines. The ex-husband maintained that he was “separated” from his current spouse, so her income should not be counted. The trial court disagreed. Siding with the ex-wife, the judge found the ex-husband and his spouse “pooled their resources,” and based on this, increased his child support obligations to $467 per month. As a caveat, the judge said that in the event the ex-husband and his spouse no longer “reside with one another,” his child support would be reduced to just $170 per month.
The ex-husband appealed the trial court’s ruling. The First District said the trial court acted appropriately in including the current spouse’s income for purposes of child support calculations. However, the Appellate Court said it was inappropriate for the trial court to conditionally reduce the ex-husband’s new support obligations “depending on certain findings that would be made in an undefined … divorce matter.” In other words, a trial court cannot modify child support based on speculation, especially when the spouse requesting support had not had a chance to be heard on the issue.
Speak with a Chicago Child Support Lawyer Today
As you can see, child support determinations are often not a one-time affair. Many changes in the parents’ and child’s circumstances may justify a court revisiting the issue. If you need advice or assistance regarding a child support matter, the Illinois divorce and custody attorneys at the Law Offices of George M. Sanders, P.C., can help. Call us today at 312-624-7645 to schedule a consultation.