If you get a divorce in Illinois, and you have children, you will almost certainly be required to pay child support if you are the parent with less parenting time. It is the policy of the state that children are owed support from both of their parents if at all possible, so that right is not vested in either you or your spouse. You may or may not be asked to pay spousal support, also called maintenance, depending on the specifics of your case. Whether you are required to pay one or both, however, it is possible to request a modification to both of these payments if it is deemed appropriate.
Child Support Changes
Child support may be modified every three years without any other cause, or it may be modified when there is a “substantial change in circumstances,” most often due to a change in the supporting parent’s income. While every judge will define “substantial”’ differently, the law does stipulate a minimum standard—specifically, a deviation of at least 20 percent (but no less than $10 per month) from the existing order. Judges are not required to order child support strictly according to statutory guidelines, but if they do not, they must enter a finding regarding why the guidelines were not appropriate.
Another reason parents may request a child support modification is because something in the child or children’s lives has changed significantly. For example, if a child becomes disabled, or if he or she marries or joins the armed forces, the amount of child support will necessarily require adjusting. Because changes such as these are significant, to say the least, the old amount may simply not be enough.
Spousal Maintenance Modifications
Unlike child support, spousal support or maintenance is not presumed to be appropriate in every divorce case. The court will weigh a list of factors, applying a balancing test that seeks to be fair to both spouses. There is a fairly exhaustive list of issues that a family court will consider before deciding to award maintenance and in what amounts, or to deny it entirely. Some of them include each spouse’s earning potential or lack thereof, whether there is any need for retraining or further education upon reentering the workforce, and any previous agreement made by the parties, such as a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement will usually be honored by a court unless the agreement is manifestly unconscionable.
In terms of petitions for modification of maintenance orders, the requirements are very similar to those for child support modification requests. There must be a “substantial change in circumstances” that would warrant an increase or decrease. The most common situation is when the obligor loses a job, but there are many situations in which a modification might be appropriate.
Need Clarification on Your Obligations?
It is very easy to misunderstand or misinterpret issues surrounding maintenance and child support because they are quite complex even in a relatively amicable divorce. If you have questions or concerns, our dedicated DuPage County family lawyers may be able to assist. Contact our office today to set up an initial appointment.