When child support is ordered, the payments are based on the income of the parent who is ordered to pay it. Income is considered from different sources, and a percentage is calculated based on Illinois law and the number of children involved. However, this does not mean that the amount will always be affordable to the parent, and the law allows a parent who loses employment or other forms of income to appeal to a court to seek lower payments. If a parent fails to seek modification of the child support after losing income, they may end up getting behind and owing arrearages on the child support.
Arrearages owed on child support do not go away. A parent may be ordered to keep paying child support based on arrearages long after the children have reached their eighteenth birthdays. While this feels unfair, especially since the child is not likely to be receiving the support payments directly, it is important to remember that the arrearages payments are not new support payments; they are meant to cover child support that the parent was supposed to be making in the past and never did. When making payments on arrearages, it is important to make sure that the calculations are done to reflect this and new child support payments are not added.
Options for Settlement
In some cases, a parent who is behind on payments can seek to have the arrearages forgiven if they can reach a settlement with the parent who was owed support. A settlement may be agreed upon where the parent owed agrees to take a portion on the past payments and forgive the rest of the payments due. There is no statute of limitations on collecting a child support payment debt, and it is not dischargeable in bankruptcy; therefore, in some cases a settlement or forgiveness may be the best approach.
Parents who are behind on child support payments owed to the state of Illinois, not to the custodial parent, can get relief from the arrearages owed through the Clean Slate Program. Child support payments may be owed to the state if the custodial parent received assistance from the state. Through the Clean Slate Program, a parent who was behind on child support payments due to unemployment, incarceration, or a serious illness can have their past payments forgiven if they can show that they currently have an ability to pay.
Parents ordered to pay child support should keep in mind that in some cases of willful failure to pay child support despite the ability to do so, they may be prosecuted criminally for failure to pay after a certain time and arrearages of over $5,000.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
If you would like to modify a child support, custody, or visitation order based on changed circumstances, you need an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today to discuss how we can be of assistance.