John Roska: Differences between new, old child-support laws complicated

John Roska: Differences between new, old child-support laws complicated

Q: I heard Illinois has a new law for calculating child support. How does that new law work? How is it different from the old law?

A: Last week's column answered these questions for the basic situation of a noncustodial parent paying support to a custodial parent. (Officially, noncustodial and custodial parents don't exist anymore, but it's simpler to use those familiar terms.) This week will cover how "shared parenting" tweaks the calculation.

To review: Child support is now based on "income shares." Roughly speaking, the noncustodial parent pays their share of what the law says both parents together should pay to raise a child.

That share is their share of the combined net income of both parents. If their combined net income is $2,000 per month, a noncustodial parent earning $1,500 has a 75 percent share.

Whatever that share is gets applied to the "basic support obligation," which is found on a set of tables. Those tables are based on surveys that show the amount an intact family, with a specific amount of combined net income, spends on child rearing.

For parents with a combined net income of $2,000 a month, the tables say the basic support obligation is $432. Our noncustodial parent therefore pays 75 percent of that $432, or $324 per month, as their "income share" for child support.

As hinted last week, this basic calculation gets even more complicated if there's "shared parenting." That's when the noncustodial parent has a child at least 146 nights a year.

Reaching that threshold means you're approaching 50/50 time-sharing. Presumably, evenly shared custody is more expensive, and increases the combined child-rearing expenses.

The law therefore multiplies the basic support obligation by 1.5, to get an enhanced "shared care child support obligation." Then, each parent's share of that obligation is calculated, using their percentage of combined net income.

In the example, the "shared cared child support obligation" would be 1.5 X $432 = $648. The custodial parent's 25 percent share of that support is $162; the noncustodial parent's 75 percent share is $486.

Then, because you're approaching 50/50 custody, you adjust for time actually spent with each parent by pro-rating each parent's share of support. You pro-rate by multiplying each parent's share of support by the percentage of time the child spends with other parent.

The shared parenting threshold of 146 nights a year amounts to 40 percent of the time with the noncustodial parent, and 60 percent with the custodial parent. In the example, you'd pro-rate the noncustodial parent's share of support, $486, by multiplying it by 60 percent.

That's $292, which reduces support to reflect the fact that the child is spending less time with the custodial parent and more with the noncustodial parent.

In the example, the custodial parent's share of support would be 40 percent of $162, or $65. They don't really pay that support, but it's imputed to them as part of the calculation.

Finally, you figure the difference between those two amounts of pro-rated support. That difference is the child support amount actually to be paid. It's paid by the parent with the greater of those two amounts.

In the example, support would be $292 - $65 = $227, to be paid by the noncustodial parent. This reduces child support from the original, basic calculation of $324 to $227.

The custodial parent gets less support, because with "shared parenting," the child spends less time with them, and more with the noncustodial parent.

Things can get even more complicated. It's hard for everyone — not just the do-it-yourselfer.

John Roska is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.