Calculations to figure Illinois parents’ child support may change

The Illinois state government is considering what would be a big change in how child support is calculated. The current model dates back to the 1980s and is seen by many as outdated. By contrast, the new method is more transparent and likely to be seen by each side of a child support case as being fair.

Currently, 38 states use the formula that is under consideration, known as “income shares.” In a nutshell, the proposed formula uses tables that show the average costs for child-rearing for nuclear families of various income levels. Then the formula takes each parent’s income into account, and calculates what each parent’s share would be based on their earnings.

Under Illinois’ current “percentage of income,” which is used by nine other states, the child support calculation is figured by taking a fixed percentage of the net income of the noncustodial parent. It factors in how many children that parent supports.

The problem with the current method, as explained by the director of the Illinois Division of Child Support Services, is that it contains many assumptions that are often not true, such as both parents having the same amounts of income, and the formula doesn’t take into account the fact that children may split time between parents.

Because of the scope of the issue–there are almost three-quarters of a million child support cases in the state–the model would only be applied to new cases, unless the parents go to court to argue otherwise. It would also take a few years to be implemented, because computer systems will have to be revamped and employees will have to be trained on the new policies and procedures.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Illinois may alter child support formula,” Bill Ruthhart, Dec. 30, 2011