When a couple divorces in Illinois, in most cases, the non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. The law governing child support payments in Illinois is the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“Act”). Under the Act, a couple can negotiate on their own what terms they want to work out for payment or, if the couple cannot agree, the court will arraign a structured payment plan that is in the best interests of the child or children.
Just because the court orders a parent to pay child support, it is not guaranteed that payments will be enforced or that the custodial parent will receive the money. The court does have mechanisms in place to collect payment, like garnishing the non-custodial parent’s wages.
Garnishing wages is the most effective way of ensuring compliance. Illinois has a flat percentage formula: 20 percent is deducted from a non-custodial parent’s wages if the couple has one child; 28 percent if they have two; and 32 percent if they have three or more children together. There is a cap that limits the deduction to no more than 65 percent of a paycheck, regardless of the number of children the couple has together. This money is sent to the State Disbursement Unit, which then mails the check to the custodial parent.
There are other punishments if a non-custodial parent fails to pay child support. The court can take away the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license or passport. The court can also enforce other financial penalties, such as withholding federal tax refunds or placing a lien against property of the non-custodial parent. However, the court only uses these methods if other, less punitive actions have failed.
Revolving Door into the Courtroom
Unfortunately, even when the court has enforcement measures in place, custodial parents sometimes end up going back to court multiple times to obtain the court-ordered child support. There are several hurdles that the court faces in enforcing payment. If a parent moves around frequently it may be difficult to track the parent down and the parent may move out of the court’s enforcement jurisdiction.
Another hurdle the court faces is if or when to modify the payments. If a parent is constantly changing jobs, he or she may not have a steady income and cannot consistently pay support each month. Sometimes the parent may be acting fraudulently by underreporting his or her income or identifying his or her occupation as “self-employed” and hiding possible earnings.
Most states, including Illinois, get federal funding to assist parents in getting child support payments. In many counties, there are child support enforcement divisions that assist parents with establishing paternity, and then, once paternity is established, seek enforcement of payment by the non-custodial parent.
In some cases the non-custodial parent will refuse to pay or is unable to pay if they are jobless or in jail. Courts are reluctant to threaten jail for failure to pay child support because they have found that it just leads into pattern of non-payment and jail time.
Alternative Methods of Collection
Some frustrated custodial parents are looking to collection agencies to collect on non-payment of child support. There are many agencies that specialize in enforcing collection of child support payments. In Illinois, there is no statute of limitations for enforcing payment. These agencies have the manpower and time to further investigate the issue, which the overburdened courts are unable or unwilling to do. However, it is at a significant cost to the custodial parent, as collection agencies in return may ask for a hefty percentage of money that they end up collecting as a fee for their services.
For more information about family law issues, including apply for and collecting child support, please contact the experienced Chicago family law attorneys at Mevorah Law Offices LLC. We can assist you with any family law-related issues you may be facing.
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