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When will the court deviate from child support norms in Illinois?

On Behalf of | Nov 16, 2023 | Child Support |

In Illinois, the court typically follows established guidelines to determine child support obligations – but guidelines aren’t the same as hard-and-fast rules. 

In cases where one parent has an exceptionally high income, deviations from the state’s child support guidelines may occur. Whether you’re on the paying end or the receiving end of child support, it’s important to understand what may happen, and why.

It’s all about the best needs of the child

Illinois follows an income shares model to calculate child support, taking into account the income of both parents, the number of children involved, the amount of overnight custodial time each parent has with the children and various other factors. 

This model is designed to reflect the idea that a child should receive the same benefits from their parental income as they would have received if the parents had remained together. Normally, the guidelines are enough to work with most income levels.

However, additional court rulings have made it clear that “the guidelines establish a beginning point for analysis.” Whatever child support amount the guidelines establish, it’s a rebuttable presumption. Either party can then argue that the court should award a different amount in order to avoid an unjust or inappropriate result. 

How does this factor into situations where one parent has an exceptionally high income? Essentially, when a child is accustomed to a very high standard of living during their parents’ marriage, the standard formula used to calculate child support may simply fall short.

In that situation, the court may choose to award additional support to maintain the continuity in the child’s lifestyle post-divorce. The court may factor in things like:

  • A child’s unique educational needs: In high-income families, it’s not unusual for children to enjoy additional educational support services, such as private schools, tutors and educational counseling designed to help them choose the right extracurriculars to enhance their college applications. 
  • A child’s accustomed hobbies: Some of the hobbies that the children of affluent families enjoy can be very expensive. The court may decide that there should be additional support provided so that they can continue with something they’ve already invested a lot of time and effort into, especially if they want to continue.
  • A child’s exceptional care needs: Some children have special needs that require additional care. This could involve a regular childcare provider, like a nanny, speech and occupational therapies and more.

It’s also critical to remember that while child support is primarily for the child, the fact that the support also benefits the receiving parent (by allowing them a more luxurious lifestyle) is not a factor the court needs to think about. 

Navigating child support in cases of exceptionally high income requires a nuanced understanding of the factors that may lead the court to deviate from the standard guidelines – far more than what can be addressed here. Parents need experienced legal guidance to help navigate this issue. By understanding the factors that may warrant deviations, parents can better prepare for the legal process ahead and work towards fair and just outcomes for their children.