Is the Illinois Child Support Model Unjust and Unfair to Children From Multi-partner Families?
(1) The Income Shares Model. The Income Shares Model utilized in 40 states as well as Washington D.C. is based on the idea that the child should receive the same share of his/her parent’s income that he or she would have received if the parents had not divorced. In families where the parents live together, both parents usually combine their income for the benefit of their children. Under this model, both parents’ income is considered when calculating child support. Each parent is then responsible for his or her share of child support. As a result,the noncustodial parent will usually pay approximately what he or she would have paid had the family stayed together.
(2) The Melson Formula. Although this model is similar to the Income Shares Model, it is more complicated because it is designed to ensure that in addition to the children’s needs each parent’s basic needs are met as well. Under this model, courts first determine each parent’s minimal self-support needs and children’s support needs as well as children’s standard of living. After each parent’s minimal support needs and children’s support needs and standard of living is established, the courts allocate the support between the parents according to each parent’s percentage of total net income. If there is any additional income, the parents will be ordered to share this additional income with the children to improve their children’s standard of living in proportion to the parents’ improved standard of living.
(3) The Percentage of Income Model. This model is utilized by the State of Illinois as well as nine other states. Although the Percentage of Income Model requires income information from both parents, it only considers the noncustodial parent’s income in determining the child support amount. (See our Child Support Article for more details on calculation of child support). The amount of child support is then determined by multiplying the net income of the noncustodial parent by 20% for the support of one child; 28% for the support of two children; 32% for the support of three children, etc.
Where the noncustodial parent (responsible for paying child support) has multiple children from multiple partners, application of this model to Illinois child support calculations results in uneven and unfair child support payments for the following reasons: prior child support obligations pursuant to court order are subtracted from the parent’s gross income before applying the percentage for child support. As a result, the oldest child will receive more in child support than his or her younger siblings from a different partner. For that reason, this approach is often called “first in time, first in right”.
In comparison to Illinois, New Jersey created a different process to prevent such unjust and unfair results in multi-partnered families. New Jersey guidelines grant their courts theauthority to have a consolidated proceeding where the court will modify and adjust all child support orders by averaging those orders to ensure that the resultingchild support is fair to all the children.
The ISBA Family Law Section Council proposed a new legislation in Illinois to address such uneven and unfair results in child support awardsin multi-partnered families by utilizing the Income Shares Model to determine child support obligations rather than the Percentage of Income Model.
The question is, “Will that be enough to have a fair and just system for calculating the child support? Or should the State of Illinois grant its courts an authority similar to that granted to New Jersey courts, allowing an adjustment of all child support orders on a case-by-case analysis to ensure that the resulting child support award is fair to all the children?”
The information on this site is not legal advice. Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.