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St. Charles family law attorneyWhen contemplating divorce, you may be concerned about how it will affect your children. Even if you and your spouse have been unhappy for years, you may have put off filing to protect your kids’ feelings. Although you may think this is in the best interests of your children, it is sometimes better to end the marriage. Kids can sense the constant tension and turmoil, which can be detrimental to their emotional well-being. Once a couple decides to divorce, there are many issues that need to be addressed, including the division of marital property, child support, spousal maintenance, and the allocation of parental responsibilities.

Child support payments are court-ordered, but in some cases, a parent may fall behind on payments or fail to pay altogether. Since the other parent relies on this financial assistance to care for the children, it may be necessary to enforce the order. If you are struggling to collect child support payments, a skilled family law attorney can advise you of your legal options.

Enforcing Court Orders

In Illinois, child support services are administered by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Division of Child Support Services (DCSS). A child support order, however, is issued by the court and enforceable under penalty of law. Therefore, a parent who fails to pay his or her designated child support can be held in contempt of court. In extreme contempt situations, an obligor who fails to pay child support may be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail.

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Kane County divorce attorneysNo couple really expects to get a divorce when they first enter into a marriage, but unfortunately, not all partners live happily ever after. In some cases, people slowly grow apart for various reasons, causing a relationship to deteriorate over time. In other situations, one spouse may abruptly leave and file for divorce, leaving the other spouse shocked. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a divorce, there are many issues the two parties will have to resolve before they can legally end their union. A divorce decree is a legal document that specifies the court’s final ruling on matters as well as any judgment orders that make the termination of a marriage official. However, in certain situations, it may be possible to appeal a judgment handed down by the court if you feel it was made erroneously. In other words, an appeal is a formal request of the court to set aside a judgment and hear the case again.   

Divorce-Related Issues That May Be Eligible for Appeal 

A request to change a court’s ruling is called an appeal. The right to appeal is included in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. It is important to note that someone cannot appeal a decision simply because he or she does not agree with it. An appeal is used to address a procedural mistake, a judge’s incorrect interpretation of the law, the admissibility of evidence, or how the law related to the initial proceedings. For example, it is possible for a judge to miscalculate a spouse’s available resources when determining spousal or child support order amounts. In other cases, insufficient evidence may have been presented during the initial court proceedings, resulting in unfair bias toward one spouse. 

The individual who challenges a court’s decision is known as the “appellant,” and the other party is called the “appellee.” When someone appeals a ruling, the case goes to appellate court instead of going back to trial. It is important to note that a person has up to 30 days after the ruling to file an appeal.

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Kane County family law attorneysFrom big-time publications such as The New York Times and Forbes to hundreds of parenting blogs across the internet, the media is littered with strong opinions - and equally strong judgements - on the subject of divorce and stay-at-home parenting. Society, it seems, is especially hard on stay-at-home mothers who wish to remain at home after a divorce is finalized. Oddly enough, though, stay-at-home parents are bombarded with judgement no matter which path they decide to take. For many, choosing to stay at home is simply not a luxury they can afford. However, for those truly desiring to maintain their homemaker role after a divorce, even when finances are tight, the option can be explored and may still be a possibility, regardless of what critics have to say.

Stay-at-Home Parenting Preparation for Divorcing Couples

As you begin the divorce process, many factors need to be considered when deciding who will stay at home with the children or whether or not the stay-at-home parent will enter the workforce once the dissolution is final. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your ex-spouse, this can either be a contentious battle or a team effort to protect the best interests of the children and the family as a whole.

Whatever your circumstances, ask yourself the following questions as you move forward with your plans:

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Kane County child support lawyersWhether you are in the process of pursuing past-due child support, need to create a new support order, or are the paying parent facing collections for support, such expenses quickly add up and make a significant dent on your finances. The process of collecting or paying child support can take time, as each case is different and some are more challenging than others. Newly divorced parents who are being introduced to the process can feel especially overwhelmed, and those who have been long divorced can suddenly find themselves in the midst of all new tensions when financial disagreements arise. The mere subject of collection can be a touchy one, which is why it is so important to educate yourself at the onset of child support proceedings, no matter what role you play in your child’s life.

What Does a Child Support Hearing Typically Entail?

Should you be required to attend a hearing for your child support order, the hearing will be conducted by either a judge or the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). You will be expected to testify to a variety of questions, which will help the court determine how to proceed with your child support order. The questions you must answer will depend on the type of hearing you are attending and the circumstances surrounding your support case. Unwed parents who have not yet established paternity will be required to answer a different set of questions than newly divorced parents, as the legal circumstances differ. 

In general, however, there are some common topics every parent can expect to address at a hearing, including:

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St. Charles divorce attorneysIn Illinois, basic child support payments end when the child reaches 18 years of age or if the child earns a high school diploma (whichever comes last). During the divorce process, parents can come to an agreement in regards to their child’s continuing education costs. If an agreement cannot be reached, either party can petition a family court to address the matter and possibly assign a fair amount to be divided between both parents and the child. This amount is intended to specific eligible expenses related to college, trade school, or other post-high school education programs (i.e. tuition, housing, textbooks, etc…). Pre-college expenses such as application fees and ACT/SAT test fees could be included in the parental support payment agreement.

Support can be granted for a college-level child until their 23rd birthday or their graduation (whichever comes first). For good cause shown, the court could extend the support until the child’s 25th birthday.

How Is College Expense Support Determined?

Many college students pay for tuition and other expenses on their own. Others are granted scholarships for academic or athletic ability to help with college expenses. Why then would it be necessary to order divorced parents to pay for their non-minor child’s school fees?

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St. Charles family law attorneyEvery child has the right to be supported by both a mother and a father. There are some cases in which this is unable to happen due to the death of a parent. However, in cases where two parents are alive, both should be responsible for the upbringing of the minor. Unwed couples often have a more difficult time raising a child together, especially if the alleged father is denying paternity of the child. Most men deny a child because they do not want to assume the financial responsibility of raising a baby with a woman to whom he is not married.

In these cases, a mother can ask the court to order a paternity test to prove that a man is the father of her child. Once paternity is established, the mother can move on to file a petition for child support, and the couple can work on visitation rights of the father.

Why is it Important to Establish Paternity?

Unmarried parents in Illinois must establish paternity if they birth a child before marriage or else the father cannot be llsted on the child’s birth certificate. The child will suffer as well if paternity is not established because he or she might not have:

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St. Charles child support lawyerIllinois considers it the right of any child to receive financial support from both of his or her parents. Child support can allow a child with divorced or unmarried parents to experience the same opportunities and quality of life as he or she would with parents who are together. Illinois courts use a specific method, called “income shares,” to calculate fair and reasonable child support obligations. However, if something major changes in the life of either parent or the child, the child support order may need to be amended. It is important to learn the steps you should take to request a child support modification in Illinois.

What Should I Do If I Cannot Afford Child Support?

Child support payments can often be a substantial part of a parent’s overall expenses. If you realize that you cannot make your support payment, never simply stop paying. Child support nonpayment is taken very seriously by Illinois courts and you could face serious consequences for neglecting your obligation. Parents who fail to pay their court-ordered child support can face steep fines, wage and bank account garnishment, property liens, interception of tax returns, and more. In the most egregious cases, failure to pay child support can be considered a criminal offense punishable by jail time. If you realize that you cannot make your support payment, notify the recipient of support and your local county court house. To request a change in child support, file a Petition for Modification of Child Support with the court.

Grounds for Child Support Modification

Child support obligations cannot be changed without good reason. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Division of Child Support Services outlines the grounds on which a child support order can be changed. You can qualify for a modification review if one or more of the following circumstances exists:

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St. Charles Child Support AttorneySince Illinois switched to the “income shares” method in 2016, child support payments are calculated based on the combined net income of both parents. When both parents have a job that pays a straight salary or hourly wage, the calculation of net income is fairly straightforward. The calculation can be far more complicated, however, when a parent is self-employed, retired, has a child support obligation from a previous marriage, or has some other special situation. 

The Definition of Net Income for Illinois Child Support Calculations

Illinois child support law (750 ILCS 5/505), in combination with various court rulings, defines income for the purpose of child support calculations as follows. 

Net income includes all income from all sources, broadly defined by the courts as “a gain or recurrent benefit” that “enhances a parent’s wealth and facilitates that parent’s ability to support a child.” This specifically includes:

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St. Charles Divorce Attorney

Before you finalize your Illinois divorce settlement, consider this: Will you and your children be financially protected if your ex-spouse dies prematurely? Under Illinois law, the obligation to pay spousal support, aka maintenance or alimony, terminates upon the death of either spouse unless otherwise agreed in your divorce settlement. Child support obligations, however, are not terminated by a parent’s death. The court may order a deceased parent’s estate to pay child support and college expenses

Child Support After a Parent’s Death

Per 750 ILCS 5/510(d), “the amount of [child] support or [post-secondary] educational expenses, or both, may be enforced, modified, revoked or commuted to a lump sum payment, as equity may require, and that determination may be provided for at the time of the dissolution of the marriage or thereafter.” To ensure your children’s financial security and your own peace of mind, you can ask for your child support order to specify how child support will be paid out of a parent’s estate in the event of death. Keep in mind that both parents have an obligation to support their children financially, so this determination should be made for both parents.

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