How is Retroactive Child Support in Illinois Calculated?

How is Retroactive Child Support in Illinois Calculated?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

In general, child support payments raise children’s standard of living to the level it would have been if their parents were married. That’s especially true in an income-share state like Illinois. Therefore, determining the amount of child support is not always easy. Determining the starting point of child support payments, especially if this determination involves retroactive child support, is sometimes troublesome as well.

A few extra months, or even a few extra weeks, of child support payments, make an enormous difference, to both:

  1. The obligors, or people paying support.
  2. The obligees, or people paying support.

Since it’s almost impossible to reopen a closed case on technical grounds, such as the beginning date of child support payments, it’s very important that a Chicago child support lawyer get it right the first time.

Triggering Event

Whether the child support obligation involves an original order or subsequent modification, a triggering event usually starts the clock ticking in terms of retroactive child support.

Usually, the date of separation is the triggering event in a divorce case. That rule seems straightforward enough. But most people are separated for many months, or even many years, before they file for divorce. Most obligors support their children during these times. But the payments are informal. Furthermore, many couples reconcile multiple times. These reconciliations could last an hour or a month. Most importantly, the date you file a request for child support is key, and often Judge will not award support prior to this date.

So, when the case goes to court, the obligor could be facing a significant bill. Given the nature of reconciliation and informal payments, an exact figure is usually difficult to determine.

Fortunately, almost every financial matter in a divorce is negotiable. If the spouses agree on an amount, the judge usually endorses that agreement. Like any negotiation, discussions over retroactive child support usually involve some give and take.

Informal payments and intermittent reconciliations usually do not affect modification matters. When circumstances materially and substantially change, the child support obligation changes as well. Since Illinois is an income share state, these changed circumstances could be emotional or financial. The emotional changes usually involve a substantial shift in the number of overnight visits. Financial changes are much more common. Many people change jobs frequently.

The date of the change is almost always different from the filing date. Child support increases are usually retroactive to the filing date.

Determining the Amount of Child Support

Once the triggering event date is established, the amount of retroactive child support is the only other substantial issue.

Usually, Illinois’ child support guidelines determine the amount. These guidelines are presumptively reasonable in most cases. The guidelines take a number of factors into account, such as:

  • The age of the children.
  • The income of both parties.
  • The proportion of overnight visits.
  • Other children a party has a legal duty to support through a Court Order.

However, the guidelines are not dispositive in all cases. Judges may deviate from them if they are “inequitable, unjust, or inappropriate.” That’s a rather subjective standard. Some specific factors include medical expenses which are “necessary to preserve the life or health of a party or a child of either or both of the parties” and a child’s “special medical, physical, or developmental needs.”

Contact a Dedicated Cook County Child Support Lawyer

Retroactive child support is an issue in almost every divorce and modification. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago child support lawyer, contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC at 312-360-0250. After-hours and virtual visits are available.