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The Magazine of Illinois Lawyers

September 2017Volume 105Number 9Page 41

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Family Law

From the Newsletters - Will the new child support guidelines help or hurt your client?

The new income shares child support calculus can produce dramatically different results from the old percentage guidelines.

"New income shares guidelines: Benefit or detriment to your client?"
By Stephanie Capps
Family Law - July 2017

It's hardly surprising that the new income shares method of calculating child support, which took effect July 1, produces different results from its predecessor "percentage guideline" model. But it's interesting to see dollars-and-cents examples of those differences, which are sometimes dramatic and counterintuitive.

That's what Stephanie Capps does in her article in the July 2017 Family Law newsletter. Capps creates hypothetical situations and runs them through the old and new child support guidelines to show how the parties fare under each.

Consider an example where Mom and Dad have one child, and Mom has the most parenting time and makes more money than Dad ($7,500 net per month to $3,500 for Dad). Capps runs these facts through the income shares model and then compares the results to the percentage model:

"The combined net monthly income of both parents is $11,000.

"The applicable amount of basic child support obligations is $1,548.

"Mom's percentage share of child support is 68 percent ($7,500/$11,000). Dad's percentage share of child support is 32 percent ($3,500/$11,000).

"Mom's amount of child support is $1,052.64 per month ($1,548 x 68 percent). Dad's amount of child support is $495.36 per month ($1,548 x 32 percent).

"Mom has the majority of parenting time, so Dad pays Mom child support in the amount of $495.36 per month. Mom keeps her share of $1,052.64 for the child."

Compare that to the old percentage model, under which "Dad would typically [have paid] 20% of his net monthly income to Mom," which amounts to $700 per month, Capps writes. In this example, the lower-earning "non-custodial" Dad pays substantially less under the new statute than the old.

Be sure to run the numbers

It's also important to run the numbers before asking for a modification of child support, even if the other party has gotten a significant increase in income. And keep in mind that under the new statute, the shift to the income shares model alone is not a sufficient basis to seek a modification.

Capps writes, "Assume all the facts are the same as [above], except the parties were divorced on July 6, 2015," when the percentage guidelines were in effect and "Dad was ordered to pay Mom 20 percent of his net monthly income in the amount of $700 per month ($3,500 x 20 percent).

"Two years later, after exchanging tax returns, Mom discovers that Dad has a new job and his net monthly income has increased to $5,000. Mom's net monthly income has increased to $8,000 net per month. She calls you requesting that Dad's child support be modified upward," Capps writes. Should you pursue modification?

Apparently not. "Under the old statute, Dad would likely have to pay Mom 20 percent of his current net monthly income in the amount of $1,000 per month to Mom," Capps writes. "Under the new statute, Dad would actually owe less than the amount ordered in the 2015 judgment."

How so? Capps runs the numbers.

"1. Mom earns $8,000 net per month, and Dad earns $5,000 net per month.

"2. The combined net monthly income of both parents is $13,000.

"3. The applicable amount of basic child support obligations is $1,667.

"4. Mom's percentage share of child support is 62 percent ($8,000/$13,000). Dad's percentage share of child support is 38 percent ($5,000/$13,000).

"5. Mom's amount of child support is $1,033.54 per month ($1,667 x 62 percent). Dad's amount of child support is $633.46 per month ($1,667 x 38).

"6. Mom has the majority of parenting time, so Dad pays Mom child support in the amount of $633.46 per month. Mom keeps her share of $1,052.64 for the child."

Thus, you have to give Mom the counterintuitive news that filing a petition to modify support could actually decrease the amount she's getting "even though Dad is earning $18,000 net more per year." Ironically, it's Dad who might want to file a petition to modify "based on his new job and new income [seeking] a lesser amount owed to Mom based on the new guidelines."

See the article for other clear, revealing examples of how the incomes shares model produces different results than the old method.