Can Judges Deviate From State Child Support Guidelines?

Can Judges Deviate From State Child Support Guidelines?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

When you are going through a divorce or a split from your child’s other parent, the court will need to allocate parental responsibilities and determine each parent’s child support obligation. Under Illinois law, child support obligations are based on guidelines.

The court uses the income shares model, which takes into account both parents’ incomes, and takes the total combined income to determine the child support obligation based on the Child Support Guidelines. The guidelines consider the total combined monthly gross income of the parents, the number of children, the amount of parenting time allocated to each parent, and other factors. The guidelines are designed to streamline the process of determining child support across cases.

Yet there are certain situations in which it might make sense for the court to deviate from the Illinois Child Support Guidelines. Our Chicago child support attorneys want to provide you with more information about the guidelines and reasons to deviate from them.

Judges Must Provide a Written Explanation for Deviating from the Child Support Guidelines

The first thing you should know about deviations from the guidelines is that they are not taken lightly. Illinois law clarifies that judges should only deviate from the existing guidelines “if the application would be inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate.”

To be sure, to deviate from the guidelines, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) says “any deviation from the guidelines shall be accompanied by written findings by the court specifying the reasons for the deviation and the presumed amount under the child support guidelines without a deviation.”

The following are reasons that the IMDMA cites for appropriate deviations from the guidelines:

  • “Extraordinary medical expenditures necessary to preserve the life or health of a party or a child of either or both of the parties”
  • “Additional expenses incurred for a child subject to the child support order who has special medical, physical, or developmental needs”
  • “Any other factor the court determines should be applied upon a finding that the application of the child support guidelines would be inappropriate, after considering the best interest of the child”

Deviations When Parent Incomes Are Very Low or Very High

Beyond extraordinary medical or health needs that would require additional child support more than what is recommended under the guidelines, one of the primary reasons that a court will deviate from the child support guidelines, which provide a kind of formula for calculating child support obligations, is that the combined gross incomes of the parents are either very low or very high.

The guidelines begin with a formula for the child support obligation when the parents have a monthly gross income of $325. Accordingly, if both parents are unemployed, or very underemployed, it may not be possible to rely on the guidelines. However, the IMDMA does state that there is “a rebuttable presumption that a minimum child support obligation of $40 per month, per child . . . for an obligor who has actual or imputed gross income at or less than 74 percent of the most recent United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guidelines.” The existence of child support arrears is not a reason to deviate from the guidelines.

Especially high incomes can also be a reason for a judge to deviate from the guidelines.

Contact Our Chicago Child Support Lawyers

Do you have questions or concerns about child support obligations in Illinois? A Chicago child support lawyer at our firm can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today for more information.