How Will Spousal Maintenance Affect “Income Shares” Child Support Model?

How Will Spousal Maintenance Affect “Income Shares” Child Support Model?

By: M. Scott Gordon

You may know that on July 1, 2017, a new model for determining child support in Chicago and throughout Illinois will take effect. That model is known as the “income shares” model, and it already has been adopted by a majority of U.S. states. Public Act 99-764 clarifies the changes to the law and what they will mean for child support orders. What does this shift in Illinois’s approach to child support have to do with spousal maintenance? In short, spousal maintenance, or spousal support payments, that are provided to Party B by Party A will count as part of Party B’s income for the purposes of calculating Party B’s child support obligation.

How will spousal support payments impact a parent’s support obligations once the new model of calculating child support takes effect?

Understanding How Spousal Support Plays a Role in Calculating a Parent’s Support Obligation

Even under the current system—in which child support payments are calculated based on a formula that takes a percentage of the paying parent’s net income based on the number of children for whom support is awarded—spousal maintenance still could play a role in those calculations. How so?

Under the current system, which will change on July 1st of this year, spousal maintenance can be a factor in calculating the paying parent’s child support obligation. Any income the paying parent receives can count toward the gross income. For instance, imagine that Party A used to be married to Party C and is currently receiving spousal maintenance from Party C. At the same time, Party A is determined to be the paying parent in a child support matter, and thus owes child support payments to Party B for their child. In this scenario, the spousal support payments from Party C would be considered as part of Party A’s gross income. To make this a bit clearer with some actual figures: imagine that Party A has an annual gross income from her job of $40,000 per year. Party A also received spousal support of $12,000 per year (or $1,000 per month) from Party C, to whom she was previously married. In calculating Party A’s spousal support payment, the court would say she has a gross income of $52,000.

The above scenario may not be likely, but it is possible under the current formulation. In addition, under the current model, spousal support paid also will reduce the net income—from which the child support award is calculated—of the paying parent. For instance, if the paying parent makes monthly spousal support payments of $2,000 per month, the paying parent’s income will be reduced by that amount for calculating the child support obligation.

Changes with the “Income Shares” Model

Why is it important to discuss spousal support in relation to the “income shares” model for calculating child support? Illinois law clarifies that, in calculating the gross income for a party paying child support, “spousal support or spousal maintenance received pursuant to a court order . . . must be included in the recipient’s gross income for purposes of calculating the parent’s child support obligation.”

As such, the reason it is important to revisit the relationship between spousal maintenance and child support under the income shares model is that both parents will have a child support obligation. If parents have shared parental responsibilities and each spends an equal amount of time with the child, then the amount of support will be calculated based on what each parent would have contributed to the child if the child were living in an intact household. It may be that one parent earns substantially more money than the other, but this fact alone does not disqualify the lesser earning spouse from contributing to child support obligations.

If the court determined that Parent A earns $100,000 from her job while Parent B earns $25,000 from his job, the court will then decide what the relative proportion of each parent’s income should be for childrearing expenses. But the court will look at more than simply the income from the parties’ jobs. If, for instance, Parent A makes spousal support payments to Parent B, then those payments will become part of Parent B’s income for the purposes of determining how much he is proportionally obligated to contribute toward childrearing expenses.

The key takeaway is this: under the “income shares” model, both parents have obligations to support their children financially, and a lesser earning parent’s spousal maintenance payments can be included in calculating his or her obligation toward child support.

Contact a Chicago Family Law Attorney

Do you have questions about spousal maintenance and child support obligations? An experienced family law attorney in Chicago can assist you. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to discuss your case.