How to Enforce Child Support in Illinois

Updated on August 21, 2021
Updated: January 18, 2023

According to Illinois law, both parents must provide financial support for their kids. Child support payments include amounts that are reasonable and necessary to support the child's education and mental, physical, and emotional needs.

Whether you're divorcing your spouse or have never been married, once your relationship ends, you must get an official child support order. In Illinois, child support amounts are determined based on a percentage of the noncustodial parent's net income and the total number of kids. The parent who receives support payments is called the "custodial parent," while the parent who has to pay is known as "the obligated parent."

Child support is an area of high conflict. While most paying parents have no issue with their support obligations, some delinquent parents simply refuse to pay court-ordered child support. There are laws in place to help enforce child support in Illinois. 

At the Tommalieh Law, our Orland Park child support lawyers are skilled negotiators and litigators who excel in securing appropriate amounts of child support in Chicago. We have the expertise and resources needed to protect the best interests of our clients, whether they're paying or receiving child support, thus we encourage you to find out how we can help you. To schedule a free initial consultation with our experienced child support lawyers in Orland Park, contact us today at (708) 232-0017.

How Do I Establish Child Support in Illinois?

To establish child support in Illinois, you must first get a court order. Fortunately, there are many child support enforcement options. First, you and your kid's other parent can agree on an appropriate amount--usually set by your state's child support guidelines. A family law judge must approve your agreement and convert it into an official court order.

If you and your kid's other parent disagree, you must ask a judge or local child support agency to set the amount. You can hire an experienced family law attorney in your area to file a legal request for a child support order.

If you can't afford to hire an experienced attorney, don't give up hope. Your state or local child support service office also called the Office of Child Support Services or the Department of Child Support Services can help you establish, enforce, collect and modify support orders.

Related Services: Orland Park Child Custody Law Firm

It's imperative to note that these government child support enforcement services don't represent either party, but act on behalf of the state to make sure minor children receive the financial support they need. Also, your local child support services office can help you get medical support orders, establish paternity (if necessary), locate deadbeat parents, and find personal property and assets from which child support can be paid. 

What Happens If I Don't Pay Child Support Payments as Ordered?

Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) tracks all accounts and if an obligated parent falls behind, DCSS will choose one or more of the following enforcement actions to collect payment:

  • DCSS will hire a private collection agency to collect past-due support. 
  • DCSS can refer severe child support cases to federal or state prosecutors, who may start a criminal investigation on delinquent parents.
  • DCSS could contact the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations to suspend the professional licenses of noncustodial parents who fall behind on child support payments for three months or more. Also, DCSS may contact other licensing agencies, such as driver's licensing agencies.
  • DCSS may refer cases to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, which has a collection and asset recovery unit that attempts to collect past-due support from parents.
  • DCSS may intercept federal and state tax refunds.
  • DCSS may submit severe cases to the Illinois Comptroller. This enforcement agency then submits the report to credit bureau reporting agencies, thus hurting the paying parent's credit rating.
  • DCSS may also refer cases to the U.S. State Department, which will automatically deny passport requests to parents with overdue payments of more than $2500.
  • DCSS refers severe child support cases to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which could withhold a portion of federal benefits from delinquent parents who are fallen behind on child support payments. However, the Treasury Department can't withhold need-based payments, such as SSI, veterans' disability benefits, federal student loans, and some types of Social Security.
  • DCSS could start contempt proceedings. This means that the obligated parent has to go to the family law court and explain to the judge why he or she has disobeyed a lawful court order. Court contempt is very serious and can result in jail time or probation.
  • DCSS can get a lien against an obligated parent's house or land. The lien won't be released until the child support debt has been paid, so the paying parent can't sell or transfer ownership of the house or land until child support is current.
  • DCSS may also add your name to a "deadbeats most wanted list" of delinquent parents who have fallen $5000 or more behind in child support.
  • DCSS can charge interest on child support arrearages.
  • DCSS can garnish your bank accounts, withhold income from paychecks, or seize assets.
Child support form

If you're the obligated parent, don't let yourself fall into arrears and you won't ever have to face these tough enforcement actions. Get in touch with DCSS, a licensed attorney, or a legal aid attorney for advice about reducing your child support payments and paying off your arrears. The worst thing you can do is ignore the issue and let arrears accumulate until DCSS takes enforcement actions against you.

Learn More: How long does it take to get child support?

What Does “In Arrears” Mean?

“In arrears” means being behind on paying money that is owed. It's imperative to know that if the paying parent defaults or is in arrears with child support, the custodial parent may request a court order for arrears. In Illinois, there's no statute of limitations on collecting child support arrearages. Thus, delinquent parents could be held accountable for their child support obligations even after their kids become adults, and they may owe interest besides the amount of past due payments. 

The custodial parent may seek legal help when securing support payments through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). The DCSS will start the child support collection process, and measures may include:

  • Wage garnishment through Income Withholding for Support request to the employer
  • Obtaining lien on the property of the noncustodial parent.
  • Intercepting tax refunds.
  • Revocation of a parent’s professional license and driver’s license.
  • Criminal charges

The penalties for not paying child support on time or refusing to pay child support are significant in Illinois. The non-custodial parent may face hefty fines and jail time, which could increase depending on the amount of past-due support and the duration of the non-payment. Not paying child support for six months or owing over $5,000 is a Class A misdemeanor offense in Illinois. If you owe more than $20,000 in child support, that can result in a Class 4 felony offense and jail time for up to three years.

enforce child support in Illinois

What is the New Child Support Law in Illinois?

According to the new Illinois child support law, both parents’ incomes are taken into account when calculating support. Thus, child support amounts are calculated based on the combined net incomes of both parents. Child support is then calculated:

  1. Determine each party’s “net income” by running their gross incomes through a gross to net conversion calculator.
  2. Combine both parties' net incomes to establish the combined net income.
  3. Establish what percentages of the combined net income are made up by each parent’s net income.
  4. The combined net income from step 2 is plugged into an income shares chart to establish the basic child support obligation.
  5. Multiply the resulting figure from step 4 with the percentages from step 3, for each party.
  6. The resulting figures are each party’s child support obligations. It's essential to note that the figure for the parent with the most parenting time is presumed to already be applied to the child. The figure for the noncustodial parent is that parent’s child support obligation and must be paid to the custodial parent.

In Illinois, based on the new income-shares model, courts consider the typical costs to raise a child must resemble the income level that would there had the parents involved in the case stayed together. Thus, if each parent works and is earning income, the two incomes are added together to determine the amount needed to raise the child. When considering the costs of raising kids, Illinois courts consider the cost of food, clothes, housing, transportation, ordinary extracurricular activities, ordinary uncovered medical expenses, entertainment, and education. Illinois courts can also consider any other extraordinary circumstances in establishing child support.

Related Content: What is the process of child support enforcement?

One of the most important family law issues you must address in any divorce case is child support. This type of financial relief is determined based on the best interests of the kids. Family law issues can become complex when one parent doesn't meet his or her court-ordered obligations. Whether you're the custodial or non-custodial parent, you must understand your rights and legal options in a Cook County divorce. The experienced Orland Park child support lawyers at Tommalieh Law will work tirelessly to advocate on your kid’s behalf and help you achieve the best probable outcome. To schedule your free initial consultation, call our family law firm in Orland Park today at (708) 232-0017.

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