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Does an Unemployed Parent Still Have to Pay Child Support? 

Posted on in Child Support

palatine divorce lawyerWhether due to COVID-19 shutdowns or another reason, many people are finding themselves out of work. Unemployment can make it difficult for parents to cover child-related costs, including child support payments. However, a child’s financial needs do not change simply because a parent loses his or her job. Consequently, unemployment can create a challenging situation for both parents.

If you are a payer or recipient of child support in Illinois, you may have questions about how unemployment affects your child support obligation. You may wonder if you or the other parent are still required to pay if you have zero income. The answer, like many answers in family law, depends on several factors.

Child Support Payments Are Based on Both Parents’ Incomes

In 2021, Illinois child support payment amounts are calculated using a method that takes both parents’ net incomes into account. The parent who spends the majority of the time caring for the child is the recipient of child support and the parent with less parenting time is the obligor or payer. When a parent has zero income, however, this does not mean that they are automatically absolved of child support obligations.

Courts May Use Imputed or Estimated Potential Income in Child Support Calculations

When determining child support, the reason for a parent’s unemployment is a major factor in the court’s decision. Some parents lose their jobs due to large-scale cutbacks or other circumstances beyond their control. Others quit their jobs voluntarily or simply choose not to work. If a parent is involuntarily unemployed and makes a good faith effort to get back to work, the court will be much more forgiving toward that parent. The parent may be able to reduce his or her child support obligation through a child support modification.

However, if a parent chooses not to work, the court may decide to use that parent’s estimated potential income instead of his or her actual income to determine child support. The court estimates the parent’s income by assessing the parent’s work history, education, job skills, and the local job market. If the parent does not have enough work history for the court to estimate his or her potential earnings, the court may set the parent’s income at 75 percent of the current federal poverty guidelines.

Some parents try to evade their child support responsibility by underreporting their income. They may get paid “under the table” or lie on their financial disclosure forms. If you suspect that your child’s other parent is trying to get out of paying his or her fair share by lying about his or her income, contact a child support lawyer for help.

Contact a Palatine Child Support Lawyer

Arlington Heights child support attorney Nicholas W. Richardson represents payers and recipients of child support. If you have questions or concerns about child support, contact our office for help. Call 847.873.6741 for a free consultation.


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