What does child support cover? This is a question that comes up quite often during divorce proceedings. It can stir up confusion and concern among parents.

The financial responsibility of raising a child doesn’t disappear with separation or divorce. It merely transforms into an arrangement known as child support. This monetary obligation serves to ensure the well-being of the children involved, covering their basic needs and more. In reality, what child support covers extends beyond just food and clothing. It encompasses various aspects crucial for a child’s growth and development.

But what exactly falls under the “child support” umbrella?

What is Child Support and What Does Child Support Cover?

Child support is a legal mandate that is designed to uphold the financial responsibility that parents share for their children, regardless of their marital status. This obligation ensures that the well-being and welfare of children are maintained following a separation or divorce.

Child support payments are to be used for an array of expenses associated with raising a child. The objective here isn’t merely meeting immediate needs but also fostering long-term stability and growth. It is important to fully understand Illinois state laws concerning child support to understand what is covered and what is not covered – as it is used to calculate the non-custodial party’s financial obligation during a separation or divorce.

Basic Necessities: Food, Shelter, and Clothing

The primary purpose behind regular child support payments is to ensure that essential needs like food, shelter (including utilities), and clothing are adequately met. Despite changes in family structure due to divorce or separation, child support helps to ensure that your child’s lifestyle remains consistent without any significant disruption that may be caused by financial constraints faced by one parent alone post-separation or divorce.

Basic necessities may include:

  •       everyday meals at home or school lunches
  •       rent/mortgage payments
  •       utility bills, including electricity or gas
  •       suitable clothes according to seasons or specific occasions

Educational Costs and Transportation Expenses

Beyond the basic necessities, another crucial component covered under child support mandates includes education-related expenditures.

Educational costs may include:

  •       tuition fees for private schools, if applicable
  •       costs associated with extra-curricular activities
  •       sports programs
  •       summer camps
  •       purchase of necessary school supplies and school photos
  •       books
  •       uniforms
  •       transportation costs related directly or indirectly to attending these events

These educational activities play pivotal roles in shaping your child’s future and they play an important role in determining what child support covers from a legal perspective.

Health Insurance and Child Support

Beyond providing the essential necessities in a child’s life, their health is just as important. Children must be insured either through private insurance coverage (through a parent’s employer) or through public assistance programs depending on the parents’ financial situation.

If there are medical needs not covered by insurance like co-pays or prescription medications, they can be covered by the child support payments the custodial parent receives. By including healthcare in what child support covers, it ensures that the child (or children) receives the necessary healthcare they need without compromising other areas due to financial constraints.

Key Takeaway: Child support isn’t just about meeting the basic needs of a child – it is meant to help provide long-term stability and growth. It can cover everything from food, shelter, and clothing to educational expenses and healthcare costs. Illinois state law specifically outlines what child support covers and it is used in the calculation of the non-custodial party’s monthly obligation.

Illinois Child Support Law

Prior to July 2017, calculating child support in Illinois was primarily determined by the income of the non-custodial party and the number of children they were obligated to pay on. The old child support calculation used the net income of the non-custodial parent coupled by a percentage for each child. Under the new law, however, both parents’ incomes are factored into the calculation.

Parents sharing custody or parenting time often misunderstand their obligation to pay, arguing that because they share time and because the child lives with both parents part of the time, that child support is not obligated. This is inaccurate, as the court will use a formula to calculate child support based on the financial income and need of each parent. The court ultimately considers and calculates what the lifestyle of the child is when they are living with mom vs dad and whether one parent may need contribution to expense as outlined below.

New Illinois Law for Calculating Child Support

Under the new child support law, both parents’ net incomes are factored into the calculation. The new model is calculated as follows:

  1.  Determine the net income of each parent by running their gross income through a gross to net conversion chart.
  2.  Add both net incomes together to determine the combined net income of both parties.
  3.  Assign a percentage to each parent based on their contribution to the combined net income.
  4.  The combined net income from step 2 is then plugged into the income shares chart to determine a basic child support obligation.
  5.  The resulting number from step 4 is multiplied by the percentage determined in step 3.
  6.  These amounts determine each parent’s obligation to support the child. Typically, the amount of the non-custodial parent will be paid to the custodial parent as their part in providing financially for the child (or children) involved in the separation or divorce.

Under the income-shares model now used by the state, the courts consider that the typical costs of raising a child for a family should resemble the income level that would have been in place had the parties not separated or divorced. The courts take into consideration the costs of raising a child (or children), including the basic necessities, educational needs, transportation, and healthcare expenditures. Judges may also take liberty to consider other extraordinary circumstances when determining a child support payment amount.

Modifying Child Support Orders in Illinois

A child support order in Illinois can be reviewed for modification every three years. Existing orders are only modified if there has been a change in the child’s needs or a parent’s financial situation. The court can modify child support before the three-year period if there is a significant change in circumstances for the parties involved.

Unless there is a substantial change in circumstances, like loss of a job, no longer paying marital maintenance, or acquiring a large inheritance, paperwork must be filled out and filed with the court for a modification hearing to be scheduled.

When to Modify Chicago Child Support Orders

It requires a court process to modify child support in Chicago. The courts will hear a modification case if one of the following are true:

  •       There is a substantial change in one of the parental party’s financial situation
  •       At least three years have passed since the last child support order was enacted
  •       The previous order did not address healthcare coverage
  •       A written request for review was received by the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) from the parents or another state

The first step for requesting modification is to fill out the necessary paperwork – and DCSS will notify you within 30 days whether the current child support order qualifies for a review.

Key Takeaway:  Child support orders aren’t set in stone – they can be adjusted if circumstances change significantly. But don’t go it alone; court approval is key, and navigating the legal maze calls for expert help. Remember, solid evidence bolsters your case when seeking modifications.

Ensuring Regularly Scheduled Support Payments

The responsibility of child support payments goes beyond just the court ordered amount. It encompasses regularity and punctuality, ensuring that custodial parents can plan expenses without undue stress or financial strain.

In certain cases, you may encounter challenges receiving these regularly scheduled support payments from the non-custodial parent. Here are some strategies to ensure compliance with these crucial obligations.

Seek Legal Recourse Against Non-Payment

If your co-parent fails in their child support responsibilities, legal options exist for enforcement. The initial step involves contacting your local state’s child support agency which has various enforcement tools such as wage garnishment, tax refund interception, and license suspensions at its disposal.

Another option is filing a motion for contempt if there’s a violation of an existing child support order terms – this process would be better navigated with assistance from a family law professional.

Maintain Open Communication Channels

Avoiding confrontations often begins by maintaining open communication between both parents; discuss any changes impacting the ability to make regular payments promptly before they become problematic. This approach fosters mutual respect while ensuring continued care for shared children. Using neutral third-party services like online payment platforms or mediators can help manage discussions around sensitive topics like money more smoothly than direct conversations alone allow.

Prioritize Child Support Payments

To avoid falling behind on payments due to unexpected financial hardships or budgetary missteps by the paying parent – prioritizing child support over less essential expenses becomes critical. Creating a detailed budget incorporating all income sources including regular child-support-payments helps maintain fiscal discipline thereby reducing chances of missed/late disbursements affecting overall stability after divorce.

Key Takeaway:  Child support isn’t just about the money; it’s about regularity and punctuality too. If payments are missed, legal recourse is available. Open communication can prevent issues, and prioritizing these payments ensures stability for kids post-divorce. When in doubt, seek professional advice.

The Role of a Family Law Attorney in Child Support Orders

A family law attorney plays a crucial role in child support cases by representing their client’s interests, as well as the interest of the child, and helping navigate the legal process related to child support. Here are some key aspects of their role:

Legal Advice

Family law attorneys provide legal advice and guidance to their clients on child support matters. They explain the relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines applicable in their jurisdiction, ensuring that their clients understand their rights and obligations.

Child Support Calculations

One of the primary responsibilities of a family law attorney in child support cases is to help calculate the appropriate amount of child support. They consider factors such as each parent’s income, the child’s needs, and any special circumstances to arrive at a fair and legally compliant child support figure.

Filing Documents

Attorneys assist their clients in preparing and filing the necessary legal documents, such as petitions, motions, and financial affidavits, with the court. These documents are crucial for initiating or modifying child support orders.


Attorneys often engage in negotiation and settlement discussions with the other party’s attorney or the relevant government agency responsible for child support enforcement. They work to reach an agreement that is fair and in their client’s best interests.

Court Representation

If an agreement cannot be reached through negotiation, family law attorneys represent their clients in court proceedings. They advocate for their client’s position, present evidence, and make legal arguments to the judge to obtain a favorable child support order.

Modification and Enforcement

Family law attorneys also assist clients in seeking modifications to existing child support orders when circumstances change, such as changes in income or the child’s needs. They can also help with enforcement actions if the other parent fails to comply with the child support order.

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution

In some cases, attorneys may recommend and facilitate mediation or alternative dispute resolution processes to help parents reach a child support agreement outside of court. This can be a more amicable and cost-effective approach.

Legal Knowledge and Updates

Family law attorneys must stay updated on changes in child support laws and guidelines in their jurisdiction. They use this knowledge to ensure their clients’ cases are in compliance with current regulations.

Finding a Family Law Professional

Child support payments are vital for post-divorce stability, covering everything from daily needs to larger expenses like education and healthcare. Budgeting these funds effectively ensures all childcare costs are met without compromising other areas.

If you’re uncertain about where to begin when looking for legal counsel related to issues surrounding regular scheduled support payments or non-custodial parent responsibilities, consider reaching out to The Law Offices of Robert B. Buchanan. Our firm specializes in offering expert advice specifically tailored to Chicago divorces and other family law matters. Our caring staff can help you navigate the post-divorce landscape and guide you through the Illinois child support structure – ensuring what is best for you and your children during this high stress time.