How Are Child Support Proceedings Initiated in Illinois?
Separated or divorced parents have a lot on their plates in terms of providing the emotional and financial support a child needs to thrive. While a physical and emotional connection with parents is integral to a child’s development, a court cannot force a parent to have a genuine and meaningful relationship with his or her child. A judge can, however, compel a parent to pay child support, regardless of the quality of the parent/child relationship.
Child support is a right owed to the child, and a parent cannot shirk this responsibility as long as the law recognizes the person as the child’s legal parent. Further, the type of relationship the child’s parents have with one another, whether it be as husband and wife, live-in girlfriend/boyfriend, or former partners who were never married, has no bearing on the legal parent’s ongoing obligation to provide support until the child reaches the age of 18.
A common question connected with child support orders is how they are established, or more specifically, who may initiate an action for child support, and what is the process followed for establishing a legally enforceable obligation?
As Part of a Divorce Case
One component of filing a divorce petition is identifying the outstanding issues that will control the resolution of the case, and spouses who share children are required to inform the court of this fact from the beginning, as well as present a proposed parenting plan, if possible. Thus, in divorce cases, child support is front and center throughout the process, and mandatory financial disclosures outlining each spouse’s income and expenses will serve as the foundation for any child support order issued.
Further, the final divorce judgment typically incorporates an income withholding order that directs the payor parent’s employer to automatically withhold and transfer the specified child support amount to the state child support program every time pay is issued. If an income withholding order is not issued, parents are still generally expected to process payments through the state program, and not via direct payments to the other parent.
Outside of a divorce petition, most child support orders come as a result of an administrative action handled by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. A parent with primary responsibility for a child may request the establishment of a child support order or an administrative determination of paternity.
Parents receiving state financial assistance will automatically be enrolled in the system to establish child support. Establishing paternity is necessary when a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity was not executed at a child’s birth, and child support is typically part of this determination.
The administrative option for setting up child support is typically faster than pursuing a petition to establish child support via the judicial process. However, while the administrative process is more informal and private, it fails to offer the same level of protections judicial cases do, and it does not facilitate challenges made by one parent against the other. A parent must often weigh whether expediency is more important than the safeguards provided by the judicial process, and an experienced family law attorney can help advise whether a court or the state child support program offers the best option for securing the payment of this support.
Speak With a Schaumburg Child Support Lawyer
If you have questions about establishing a child support obligation, seek assistance from dedicated Rolling Meadows family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson to provide the guidance you need. Providing and receiving child support is a central part of sharing child custody, and each parent has an interest in ensuring the proper amount is allocated. Contact our law firm at 847.873.6741 to learn how best to address child support concerns in your situation.