How do you know if you are paying the right amount of child support under Illinois law? In my experience as a divorce, custody and child support lawyer, most people don't have a problem with paying child support but they want to make sure that they understand what amount they have to pay. No one likes being taken advantage of and would rather give a little extra when they can or take their children shopping, over being obligated to pay an incorrect amount to their ex. Here's my list of the top three mistakes that obligor's make (that's the fancy word for the person who is obligated to pay child support to the other parent):
1. Letting Someone Else Calculate Support. Its just math, right? Many unrepresented people figure that since child support is just a mathematical formula in Illinois, it is okay to have the other person's lawyer, the State's Attorney, or even the judge figure out the child support that has to be paid. This is a huge mistake! For example, they may be using only one of your paystubs. If your paycheck varies, then an average should be taken. What if they happen to be using the paystub that included a ton of overtime which is not usual for you? Another thing that might happen is using only your W2 to calculate child support. But what if your income has changed substantially since your last W2 was issued? Even if it hasn't, your W2 doesn't show other deductions from your pay which may legally be used to reduce your obligation. Close enough is what they figure, but at the end of the day, it isn't their money being used. Its yours! The amount of money you will spend having your own lawyer look calculate the child support is money well spent and may end up saving you a ton in the long run. A good lawyer experienced in child support issues will know not only how to calculate your child support correctly but can advise you in terms of how the support should be paid, what it includes, etc.
2. Paying Cash. Even if you trust your ex, don't pay child support with cash. I have seen this backfire on people too many times. Your testimony in court that you paid child support is likely to not be enough, especially if you cannot remember exact dates, amounts, etc. Just write a check. If you don't have a checking account, buy a money order and keep the stub as proof. Write "child support" on the memo line.
3. Waiting to get Child Support Reduced. If you lose your job, take a significant pay cut, or find a mistake in what you have been ordered to pay, don't wait to have your child support reduced (and yes, you have to go to court to have it reduced, you can't just start paying less). For example, let's say something happens to you in November that would entitle you to pay less child support (like your boss permanently and drastically reduces your hours). Meanwhile, you are still paying based on your old pay. Months go by and finally on February 2nd you decide to ask for a reduction. If the court agrees that you should pay less, then you start paying less as of February 2nd, not going back to November. This is because of a legal concept called laches- the equivalent of "you snooze you lose".
If you need help figuring out how much child support you should be paying, or getting your child support reduced, please give us a call and set up an appointment in either our Schaumburg or Itasca office. Bring in your paystubs, tax return, and any prior court order and we can give you good, solid child support advice. Give us a call today at 630 250-8813.