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Is Illinois child support a zero-sum game, or do some just get zero? p2

We were talking about child support and collection practices in Illinois in our last post. When a non-custodial parent fails to make timely or regular support payments, the custodial parent and children are, unsurprisingly, at risk. What people may lose sight of, though, is that the single-parent family is at risk sometimes even if support is current.

Typically, the noncustodial parent is the father. Typically, too, the father earns more than the mother, especially if the mother put her career on hold when the kids came along. The economic hit of a divorce can be significant. Add to that the trend away from spousal maintenance, and you have a custodial parent clearly dependent on child support payments to make ends meet.

Experience has shown that it's not just the poor or unemployed noncustodial parents who fail to pay child support. That may be why Illinois has about 500,000 families waiting for the state to help collect the back payments.

The method for calculating support payments could be part of the reason thousands of children in this state are slipping into poverty. As we said in our last post, Illinois is one of a handful of states that uses percentage guidelines, a system that has its flaws.

According to state law, support payments are based on the non-custodial parent's net income. For one child, the payment is 20 percent; for two, 28 percent; and so on, maxing out at 50 percent to support six or more children. The court has some discretion here and can deviate from the guidelines, particularly for noncustodial parents with incomes above $250,000.

It's not as easy as that, though. We'll get into the tricky parts in our next post.

Source: ChicagoParent.com, "Child support - a lifeline for all?" Merry Mayer, Oct. 28, 2011

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