I’m Currently Paying Child Support – But Now I’m Hospitalized and Unable to Pay

I’m Currently Paying Child Support – But Now I’m Hospitalized and Unable to Pay

By: M. Scott Gordon

As anyone who recently went through a divorce with minor children knows, child support laws in Illinois have changed to reflect the “income shares” model in which both parents are responsible for providing support for the children. In other words, Illinois no longer operates on a system in which one parent (the “non-custodial parent”) makes child support payments to the other parent (the “custodial parent”). While this new model for calculating child support reflects other recent changes to Illinois law, it does not make it any less stressful when one of the parents temporarily loses the ability to contribute his/her portion of the support obligation.

We often speak with parents who have temporarily lost the ability to pay child support and are concerned about what to do next. A common situation is when one parent is hospitalized and unable to pay child support and that parent does not know what actions he/she should take. Depending upon your circumstances, you may be able to seek a temporary or long term modification of your child support order.

Modifying Child Support Under Illinois Law

Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), an order for child support may be changed or modified “upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances.” A substantial change in circumstances is not defined specifically under the statute, but the meaning certainly includes a major change in the parent’s life, which affects his/her ability to pay child support. In general, courts typically consider some of the following to represent a substantial change in circumstances:

  • Parent loses his/her job through no fault of their own and cannot pay child support;
  • Parent loses major source of income through no fault of their own and cannot pay child support;
  • Parent becomes incarcerated and cannot pay child support; and/or
  • Parent becomes ill or injured, and as a result, cannot work and therefore cannot pay child support.

When a parent willfully makes a choice to quit his/her job or takes another action to avoid having to pay child support, the court will not modify the order. However, when a parent did not intentionally or willfully take steps to avoid paying child support, that parent may seek a modification.

Request a Modification When You Are Hospitalized

If you have been hospitalized due to an illness or injury and cannot pay child support, you should speak with a Chicago area family law attorney about requesting a modification. Being hospitalized for a significant period of time, or having a long-term illness or injury, should qualify as a substantial change in circumstances. However, you will need to request a modification to your child support obligation. The court likely will need to see proof you currently are unable to pay child support and will want information about the probable time period for which you will be unable to pay.

In some cases, the court may temporarily modify the child support order, depending upon the specific circumstances of your case. For example, if you know you will be hospitalized and need eight weeks to recover, but then plan to return to work, the court may modify the child support order for a temporary time window. If your condition is likely to prevent you from paying child support for an extended period, you may be able to have the order permanently modified. If you do become able to pay again, it is important to know the child’s other parent can request a modification so you again are responsible for a portion of the child support obligation.

Contact a Chicago area Child Support Lawyer

If you need assistance modifying a child support order, a Chicago child support attorney can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC today.