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Illinois lawmakers look to update child support laws

With talk of many states considering overhauling their alimony and child support regulations, it's surprising that the Illinois Legislature is considering a move to update the state's child support laws. There is a sense among advocates of child support reform that the laws are outdated and should do more to reflect the complexity of today's family situations.

As Illinois law currently stands, the spouse that does not have custody of their children pays a set percentage of their income into child support. While simplicity is sometimes appreciated in the law, this is a case where many feel that this law does not appropriately calculate how much child support a spouse should pay.

One member of the Illinois General Assembly has seized the opportunity to reform current child support laws intended to better reflect the nature of many child custody arrangements. Reform could come within the year, according to the lawmaker.

The suggested reform includes a provision to calculate child support payments based on how much the paying spouse earns, rather than a flat rate. In other words, those "who earn more will contribute more." This is based on the "income shares model" of child support.

Additionally, child support payments would more accurately resemble the amount of time the children spend with each parent under proposed reforms. If kids spend time with their noncustodial parent, less will be paid in child support. These days, kids frequently spend considerable time with noncustodial parents.

Proposed changes are not without critics. Some believe that the income share model will lead to frequent money disputes between the two parties.

There is no arguing the fact that child support arrangements are sometimes a source of contention between divorced spouses. Reformers see that the reality of divorce is complicated and stressful, so that is why they hope to make the system more accurately reflect modern family dynamics. The ultimate goal of paying child support is to ensure the well-being of children after divorce, and hopefully lawmakers work toward a solution that makes that aim more attainable.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, "A better system for child support," Jan. 16, 2012

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