Getting Child Support

Getting Child Support

Last updated: May 2013

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A parent must be the child's legal parent to pay child support. Whether you or someone else is a legal parent to a child depends on:If the child's parents were never marriedIf the child’s parents were married when the child was bornIf the child’s parents were married after the child was bornMarried parents may ask for child support as part of a divorce, legal separation, or in a separate child support case brought by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Who has to pay child support? A parent must be the child's legal parent to pay child support. The following explains how you know if you or someone else is a child’s legal parent:If the child's parents were never married, a judge must establish paternity before the court can enter an order for child support;If the parents were married when the child was born, it is assumed that the husband is the father;If the parents marry after the child’s birth and the husband has agreed to be on the birth certificate, he is the father. Married parents may ask for child support as part of a divorce, legal separation, or in a separate child support case brought by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services (“HFS IV-D Services”). For more information on paternity, please see the "Related Articles" section.How can I ask for child support? Unmarried parents: Court: If you were never married to the other parent of your child, you can file a Petition to Establish Parentage. In the Petition, ask for child support from the non-custodial parent.HFS IV-D Services: If you are the custodial parent, you can start a child support case with HFS IV-D Services. You can get help from HFS IV-D Services even if you do not get any public benefits. HFS IV-D Services will:Search for the non-custodial parentEstablish paternityObtain a child support order or enforce an existing order when the non-custodial parent is foundEnforce the child support order by serving an “Income Withholding Notice for Child Support” on the non-custodial parent's employerGet medical insurance for the childrenYour case may go to court. If it does, HFS IV-D Services will have attorneys from either the Illinois Attorney General’s Office or the county State’s Attorney’s office. These attorneys represent HFS IV-D Services only. Any talks you have with the HFS IV-D Services attorneys will not be confidential and may not remain secret. When your case is ready for court, you will be asked to read and sign a disclosure statement which explains the role of the HFS IV-D Services attorneys used in child support matters for the State of Illinois. HFS IV-D Services only assists with child support. You cannot ask HFS IV-D Services for help with child custody or visitation.Married parents:Court: If you and the non-custodial parent are married, you can start your child support case by filing for divorce. In the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you should ask for child support. You may also ask for child support in a Petition for Legal Separation. You may also file a Petition for Temporary Support if your divorce case has been pending for a long time and you still do not get child support. See the “Related Articles” tab for more information.HFS IV-D Services: If you are the custodial parent, you can start a child support case with HFS IV-D Services. You can start a child support case with HFS IV-D Services before filing for divorce or legal separation if you live with your children and your spouse lives in another house and does not provide financial support.Is HFS IV-D Services the best way for me to get child support? Often, going through HFS IV-D Services is better than trying to get child support on your own. HFS IV-D stands for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support. HFS IV-D Services can help collect unpaid child support by:Collecting unpaid and past-due child support from the non-custodial parent's tax refund and bank accounts;Having the non-custodial parent's driver's license taken away;Taking away the non-custodial parent's professional license and/or passport; orPlacing liens on real estate and workers compensation and other lawsuit settlements.Other benefits to using HFS IV-D Services include:You may not have to go to all of the court dates if the agency handles your case; andThe agency has better access to records of the non-custodial parent's income and payments made through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU).Should I hire an attorney to get child support? A private attorney may bring your case to court faster and represent your case better, but you may not be able to afford to pay a private attorney. You may also not want to spend money on an attorney because you are not sure of how much child support you will receive. Remember, getting information about the other parent, especially getting information about his or her income, can be hard to do and child support cases can take a long time, even if you do hire an attorney.Should I go to court to get child support on my own? There are many things to think about before you try to get child support on your own. A child support case can last a long time. This is especially true if it is hard to find the other parent or learn how much the other parent makes. You may have to go to court several times.You may also find it hard to get a child support order on your own if the other parent hires an attorney or you have a bad relationship with that parent. In those situations you should get help from HFS IV-D Services. How much child support can I get? The non-custodial parent has to pay a certain percentage of his or her net income towards child support. You can estimate your child support payment by using this table:Number of Children = % of Supporting Party's Net Income1 = 20%2 = 28%3 = 32%4 = 40%5 = 45%6 or more = 50%This is the minimum amount of child support the non-custodial parent must pay.Sometimes the judge will order more or less child support than required. This is called a “deviation” from the guidelines. A judge must explain his reasons for deviating from the guidelines. For example, a judge may deviate from the guidelines when a child with special needs requires extra financial support. If the judge cannot figure out the non-custodial parent’s net income, the judge will decide a reasonable amount of child support to be paid based on the facts of the case. The final order will tell how much child support must be paid in dollar amounts.How is a parent's income calculated? Child support is based on the non-custodial parent’s net income. Net income is gross income from all sources minus all required deductions. Required deductions are:Federal income tax State income tax Social Security paymentsMandatory retirement contributions required by law or as a condition of employmentUnion duesDependent and individual health/hospitalization insurance premiumsPrior obligations of support or maintenance actually paid following a court orderOther expenses such as (1) repayment of debts necessary to maintain income, (2) medical, and (3) for the benefit of the child and the other parent. The amount that the non-custodial parent takes home is not always the net income on which child support is calculated. For example, if the non-custodial parent voluntarily contributes to a retirement savings plan, such as a 401(k) plan, that contribution is not mandatory and is not subtracted from gross income when calculating net income for child support.Are my child's expenses like child care, health care, and extracurricular activities covered by the child support payment? It depends on each parent’s income. A court may order either or both parents to give money towards:Health needs that are not covered by insuranceChild care that allows a parent to work or attend schoolEducationExtracurricular activities, like sports teams or music lessonsThe court can order either parent to pay towards these expenses in addition to child support. Often, the court will ask parents to split these expenses 50/50.How is child support paid? In most cases, child support payments are taken directly out of the non-custodial parent's paycheck. When the non-custodial parent has a job and a consistent source of income, the child support must be taken directly from his or her paycheck unless both parties agree it is not necessary, and the Court approves the parties’ agreement. A Notice to Withhold Income for Support is sent to employer. The employer must follow the Notice to Withhold Income for Support by taking the child support out of the paycheck and sending the child support to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU then records the child support payment, and sends the payment to the other parent. The parent paying child support must make sure that their employer is taking the right amount from their paycheck for their child support payment. If the employer does not take out the child support from the paycheck and send it, the paying parent must send it themselves. Employers may be fined up to $100 per day if they do not withhold child support.It is best to have all payments sent to the SDU, even when there is no Notice to Withhold Income for Support, because the SDU keeps a record of all payments. This can help prevent arguments in the future.What if I receive welfare, do I still get the child support amount? If you get money from the Illinois Department Health and Family Services (IDHFS) and child support, the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) will send your child support payment to IDHFS. IDHFS will pay you either $50 per month or the child support payment, whichever is less, and your welfare check. This is called a "pass-through" payment. The IDHFS keeps the rest of the child support amount. If you stop receiving welfare from the IDHFS, you should tell the SDU so that they will send your entire child support payment.What should I do once I get a child support order? Once you get the child support order, a "Uniform Order of Support" has to be entered by the court. This court order can then be sent to the paying parent's employer. See the “Instructions” tab for more information. Can I get child support even if the non-custodial parent does not see his or her children? You cannot deny the non-custodial parent court ordered visitation even if they are not paying child support. You must follow certain legal procedures to enforce your child support order. You cannot enforce your child support order by denying court ordered visitation. If you are the non-custodial parent, you cannot stop paying child support if the other parent is not allowing visitation. You must follow certain legal procedures to enforce your visitation order. You cannot enforce your visitation order by not paying child support. Does the child support payment stop automatically when my last child turns 18? The law requires that the Uniform Order for Support must contain a termination date for child support. The termination date will be:On the child's 18th birthday if the child is not still in high school;On the child's expected graduation date if the child is still 18 when he or she graduates; orOn the child’s 19th birthday if the child turns 19 when he or she is in high school. If you have more than 1 child, then the termination date will be on your youngest child's 18th birthday, expected graduation date, or 19th birthday if they are still in high school. You should check the Uniform Order for the specific date of termination.Prepare and File Forms Unmarried Parents: If you and the other parent have never gone to court to establish parentage, then use the following forms:Forms for Father to Establish Custody if There is No Proof of PaternityForms for Mother to Establish Custody if There is No Proof of PaternityMarried Parents:If you are ready to file for divorce, you will need to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and ask for child support in the petition. See the “Related Articles” tab for information on getting a divorce.If your divorce has been pending in court for a long time and you have not received support, you can file a Petition for Temporary Child Support and receive child support during the time that your divorce case is being decided and before the final Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage is entered by the court. See the “Related Articles tab for more information You will need to file the Petition in the Circuit Court of the county you live in.Give Notice You must let the non-custodial parent know about the petition. If this is your first time in court with the non-custodial parent, you need to have him or her served with your Petition and a Summons by a county Sheriff or by a Special Process Server. If you already have gone to court with the non-custodial parent, you will need to send a copy of your Petition to him or her along with a Notice of Motion.Go to Court You will go to court on the set date and present your case.The judge will ask you questions about your case. You can also testify by calling yourself as a witness. If you need anyone else to testify for you, make sure that you bring that person to court with you, and that you call that person as a witness. The non-custodial parent will also get an opportunity to speak in court, testify, and call his or her witnesses. Once both of you have presented your cases, the judge will either grant your petition and enter a child support order, deny your petition, or continue the case for various reasons, such as gathering more information. In Cook County, the judge will ask you to complete a Disclosure Statement which asks for information about your income, assets, and monthly expenses for yourself and your children. Other Illinois counties have similar forms requiring you and the other parent tell the court about your monthly income and expenses.Send Notice to Paying Parent's Employer You must send a Notice to Withhold Income for Support to the other parent's employer. It does not need to be signed by the Judge and can be prepared after court, but it must follow what is written in the Uniform Order. The Notice to Withhold Income directs the employer to take the child support payment out of the parent's paycheck and send it to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). The SDU will then send you the child support money. The SDU and the Circuit Clerk of the court that entered the Uniform Order for Support will keep a record of payments.

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