If you and your spouse decide to end your marriage, both of you must accept the fact that while your marriage is ending, your responsibilities as parents to your children are not changing. In fact, it is likely that both of you are about to assume additional responsibilities as you adapt to living as a single parent. One of the most important concerns of many parents in this situation is child support, or financial responsibility for the couple’s children.

In virtually every divorce involving children, one parent will end up paying child support to the other. While the thought of paying your ex money every month may not sit well with you, it’s vital to remember that child support provides for your children, not your ex, and the court has methods of ensuring child support is used appropriately. You should know what child support entails and what to expect when it comes to a judge calculating your child support obligations. It is also essential to know what to do if you end up with an unreasonable or one-sided support agreement.

How Does Child Support Work?

Child support aims to provide children of divorced parents with the same level of financial support they would have enjoyed had their parents been married or remained married. Bloomington, IL family court judges consider many different criteria when awarding child support. Parents beholden to child support agreements must carefully follow these agreements to avoid potentially significant legal consequences. Failing to abide by the terms of a child support agreement, even one you believe to be unfair or one-sided, can have dramatic repercussions, including damaging your relationships with your children.

When a judge determines child support, they weigh many different factors to determine which parent is responsible for paying and the amount they must include in each payment. Child support is typically paid monthly, but it is possible for divorcing parents to arrange alternative payment schedules based on the frequency of their paychecks or other financial issues.

What Will a Judge Consider When Determining Child Support?

Bloomington, IL family court judges seek to ensure that parents of divorcing children get to enjoy the same level of financial support they would have if their parents remained married. Therefore, when parents divorce, they each have an equal share of responsibility toward financially supporting their child.

A judge will first determine where the child will spend most of their time. “Physical custody” refers to the living arrangements of children of divorced parents. If children spend exactly equal time with each parent, such as alternating weeks staying with each, then it could be said the parents share joint physical custody. If one parent has more physical custody than the other, it’s logical to assume they will handle a greater share of the child’s everyday expenses.

The next issue that demands attention is legal custody, or parental rights to make major decisions on behalf of children. If one parent receives a greater share of legal custody, they will have more authority to make major decisions for their children. This increases their need for financial support from their coparent.

Judges must also assess a child’s unique individual needs. Medical conditions, disabilities, psychological disorders, and exceptional academic ability can all influence the cost of raising a child. Once a judge has determined the level of financial support a child requires and the level of custody of each parent, the next step is to assess each parent’s income and determine which parent has the greater need for child support.

Calculating Your Child Support Obligation

If you have been ordered to pay child support, remember that Illinois recently changed the laws concerning child support in 2017, shifting from a percentage-based formula to a shared income model. This means the court assesses how much the child would have received from both parents’ shared incomes had they remained married to inform a child support determination.

It’s important to prepare for the possibility of owing more child support than you may have initially anticipated. In this situation, it is essential not to panic and to meet your court-ordered responsibilities to the best of your ability. If you are unable to pay child support for any reason, it is crucial to notify the court immediately and to work closely with your attorney to determine your best next steps. Remember that it is always possible to file a motion against your child support order in the future if you require a needs-based change to your agreement.

An experienced attorney is one of the best possible assets if you are trying to determine your child support obligation in advance of divorce proceedings. Your attorney can help you compile records and evidence that establish your financial means, hopefully ensuring the fairest possible outcome in your child support determination. If the initial proceedings do not go as planned, a post-judgment motion filed with the help of your attorney could be the best available solution.

Changing Your Child Support Agreement

Post-judgment motions allow those beholden to family court orders to modify components of those issues as their needs change and major life events occur. When it comes to child support, the most common reason for a parent to file a post-judgment motion is to request a change to their support obligation.

For example, a noncustodial parent is ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support to a custodial parent based on their income of $250,000 per year. The paying parent loses their job and secures new employment making $150,000 per year, a significant decrease from their previous salary. The paying parent can file a post-judgment motion to compel the court to calculate a more reasonable child support amount based on their new income.

If your initial estimation is off and you end up owing more than you think you should, you may need support. Consult with your Bloomington, IL divorce attorney about potentially filing a post-judgment motion and additional steps you can take toward securing a more agreeable child support arrangement. Your attorney can help you determine the best available options for handling a child support dispute in Bloomington, IL.