Establishing and Enforcing Child Support in Illinois Family Law Cases
One of the primary challenges of being a single parent is finding the money to provide for all of a child’s needs. Divorce and separation can drastically change the financial means of the child’s primary caregiver, and the law expects that both parents will contribute to the financial support of the child until adulthood.
In the abstract, this ongoing obligation seems logically appropriate and fairly easy to arrange, assuming both parents can cooperate. In practice, however, parents may need to fight to establish and enforce child support, and they can face significant obstacles when child support orders are ignored by the other parent.
A recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times noted that there are millions of dollars in overdue child support owed to children living in Illinois. Unfortunately, the child is the person who most suffers when financial support is withheld, as well as the one who will most feel the burden of having less than what he or she really needs. The most effective and fastest route to receiving regular child support is to work with an experienced family law attorney who has the means and knowledge to ask the courts to take action designed to ensure compliance.
Establishing Child Support
In order for any parent to assume a legal obligation to support a child, he or she must first be recognized as the child’s legal parent. A mother who gives birth to a child is automatically assumed to be the legal parent, and she is given the rights and obligations that go along with that designation. Fathers are not always as easily connected with a child, and the law has devised several ways to establish a man as a child’s legal father.
First, and most straightforward, if a man is married to the mother upon the child’s birth, he is presumed to be the legal father. If the parents are unmarried, paternity must first be established, and this may be accomplished by voluntarily acknowledging paternity or through a court action. If the parents marry after the child is born, and the man agrees to be listed on the birth certificate, he will be considered the child’s legal father.
To formally establish a child support obligation, one of the parents typically files a court action related to divorce or legal separation. Alternatively, a parent may initiate a child support order through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services Division of Child Support Services, though in these situations, the timeline and progression of the case will be out of the parent’s control and limited by the staffing resources available to the state.
Enforcing Child Support
Similar to establishing child support, enforcement is available through the same two avenues: court action or an administrative process with the state. The state does have many mechanisms at its disposal to force an obligated parent to pay, such as garnishing wages, seizing tax refunds, and reporting non-payment to credit agencies. However, being a government agency with thousands of Illinois residents requesting their services means any action will take time.
Perhaps more importantly, the child support division is not always effective at pursuing back child support. Using a family law attorney to compel compliance typically brings faster results, as the option of filing a contempt action is available, which places the delinquent parent in danger of jail time if he or she does not respond. An experienced family law attorney will know the best route for collecting overdue child support.
Consult a Mt. Prospect Family Law Attorney
Getting the money you need to adequately support your child as a single parent is pivotal to the child’s well-being. If your former spouse or partner is failing to meet this obligation, speak with dedicated Inverness child support enforcement attorney Nicholas W. Richardson about the best way to compel him or her to pay. Our legal team understands the stresses this situation creates, and we will work to get you the money your child deserves. Contact our office today at 847.873.6741 for a free initial consultation.