Your Chicago Child Support Case: The Basics

Prince Charming vanished faster than the Cubbies’ chance at a World Series when you told him you were pregnant, and now he won’t even return your calls. Being a single parent is no walk through Millennium Park, but now you have to work two jobs just to make ends meet on top of raising a son. Luckily, laws exist to protect your son’s rights to support from both parents. This article has general information on the laws and process for seeking a fair share of child expenses from another parent in Chicago.

Am I Eligible for Child Support?

When couple with children separates or divorces, Chicago courts may order one parent to pay money to the other to support their mutual child. The spouse receiving child support must have “custody” of the child to be eligible for child support. However, you many still be eligible for child support if you and your spouse share joint custody of the child, as both of you technically have custody. This situation is more likely to occur when there one spouse makes far more money than the other.

If you are the child’s mother, you also must establish paternity of the person you’d like support from, though this is normally assumed by the father’s name on the birth certificate.

In Illinois, child support payments will continue until the child’s 18th birthday or whenever the child graduates high school, whichever occurs later. However there are two exceptions to this deadline: when the child has educational expenses such as college tuition, or when the child has a physical or mental disability.

How Do I Request Child Support?

The best way to receive child support is to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse out of court, and then submit the agreement to a judge for approval. But fighting over money is why you broke up in the first place, right? Sometimes the only way to receive support is to take your case to a judge.

To apply for child support, or request a modification to an existing child support order, you need to fill out and file a Uniform Order for Support. The Court will enter a Cook County Support Order which specifies:

  • the amount of child support payment;
  • the frequency of payments;
  • who is responsible for providing health insurance for the children;
  • the percentage of uninsured medical costs for which payor is responsible;
  • whether payments are to be deducted from payor’s paycheck or payor is responsible for making the payments directly;
  • whether the payments are to be paid directly to the payee or to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit;
  • the termination date for support payments;
  • the amount of penalty for late support payments.

Child support cases must be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Office either in the Clerk’s Child Support Division, located at 28 N. Clark, Room 200, or in the Clerk’s Domestic Relations Division, located at the Daley Center in Room 802. Parents who were never married must file their child support cases with the Clerk’s Child Support Division, while parents who are married or divorced must file their child support cases in the Clerk’s Domestic Relations Division.

Child support cases may also be filed at any of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County offices located in one of the municipal district courthouses.

How Much Will I Receive?

A common misconception is that child support is intended only to pay for bare life necessities for the child. Instead, child support these days also includes extracurricular activities, school fees and entertainment.

In Illinois the amount of child support you can receive depends on two factors: the non-custodial parent’s income and the number of his or her children you are supporting. Here is the entire schedule as a percent of the non-custodial parent’s income:

  • one child: 20% of net income;
  • two children: 28% of net income;
  • three children: 32% of net income;
  • four children: 40% of net income;
  • five children: 45% of net income;
  • six or more children: 50% of net income.

For example, if the non-custodial parent earns $1,000 per month, and you are supporting one of his or her children, you could receive 20% of their income, or $200 per month, in child support.

Can I Modify My Child Support Payments?

In certain circumstances you may petition the court to alter the child support payment schedule, usually due to some change in circumstances. It is important to note that you cannot just change the amount of child support you pay without receiving permission from a judge first. A court will generally not modify a child support order unless the custodial parent can show, either:

  • an ongoing and substantial change in circumstances such as a change in either parent’s income, expenses, geographical location, or health insurance rates; or
  • a 20% difference between the amount of the existing child support order and the amount that would result from a current and updated application of the guidelines; or
  • a need to provide the for the health care needs of a child under the order through health insurance or other means.

What If My Ex Stops Paying?

If your former spouse fails to pay child support, you should report the deficiency to the Illinois State Disbursement Unit by calling (877) 225-7077. It is important to note that failure to pay child support does not entitle you to withhold visitation rights. On the flip side, when a former spouse withholds visitation rights, it does not entitle you to stop paying child support. If the non-custodial parent’s deficiency is significant enough, Illinois may start garnishing his or her wages and paying your child support directly.

More Resources

Family law is complicated and it’s not always easy to keep an even keel when dealing with a former spouse. It’s for these and other reasons that many turn to attorneys for help in handling their cases. You can try scheduling a consultation with an experienced family law attorney or possibly find free legal aid in Chicago. Last, but not least, if you’d like to browse through additional general information on the subject, visit FindLaw’s child support law section.

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