Attorney Jennifer Patton is personally dedicated to each case she takes on. Especially when you are facing a legal issue as consequential and emotionally draining as child custody or child support, JP Law Office is prepared to provide the experienced, one-on-one legal counsel you need. With nearly 30 years of professional experience, Attorney Patton will do her best to fight for a favorable custody and support arrangement to maintain your relationship with your child.
MODIFYING COURT ORDERS
Both child custody and child support orders may be modified in certain situations. With child custody, a parent can request modification if:
- both parents agree to the change;
- when the child’s present environment may seriously endanger the child’s physical or mental health; or
- When at least 2 years have passed since the date of the custody order, a change has occurred in the child’s or parent’s circumstances, and a modification to the custody order is necessary to serve the best interests of the child.
If a parent seeks to request a change of their child support order, they must similarly show the court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order, or:
- there is a discrepancy of at least 20% (no less than $10/month) between the existing order and a new calculation using the guidelines; or
- there is a need to provide for the child's health care needs through insurance or other means.
Whether you have legal questions about negotiating or modifying child custody or child support, JP Law Office can help you. With nearly 30 years of experience practicing law in Illinois, we are prepared to advocate assertively for your rights as a parent. We can help you negotiate a favorable custody and support arrangement in your initial divorce proceeding, or we can help you build a strong case for modification.
Types of Custody in Illinois
Illinois custody law offers legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s legal decision-making power to determine important decisions about raising the child, such as where the child will go to school, their religious upbringing, and major medical decisions. Physical custody refers to where the child will actually live. Note that the court can award joint physical and legal custody to both parents or sole physical and/or legal custody to only one parent.
Unlike some states, Illinois law does not presume that joint custody is automatically in the child's best interests. A judge will try to give both parents maximum involvement in the child's life, though evidence of domestic violence or child abuse will likely result in sole custody for the other parent.
The Child’s Best Interests
To determine the child custody arrangement, the court will examine what decision will be in the child’s best interests, which includes factors like:
- each parent's wishes;
- the child's wishes if they are of mature age;
- the child's relationship with their parent(s), sibling(s), and anyone else who may significantly affect the child's best interest;
- the child's adjustment to their home, school, and community;
- the parents' and child's physical and mental health;
- whether there has been physical violence or a threat of physical violence by either parent, whether directed against the child or another person;
- whether there has been ongoing or repeated domestic violence, whether directed against the child or another person;
- the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the other parent and the child;
- whether either parent is a sex offender; and
- the terms of either parent's military family care plan that must be completed before deployment, if applicable.
Note that Illinois custody laws state that the court should not consider a parent's marital conduct (e.g., adultery) unless it affects that parent's relationship with the child.
Calculating Child Support
The child support calculation in Illinois is based on an “income shares model” that considers both parents’ net incomes. Net income here includes all income, whether earned or unearned (e.g., wages, commissions, investment income), and subtracting any applicable deductions and adjustments (e.g., federal and state income taxes, mandatory retirement contributions, medical expenses). From there, parents should add their net incomes together to determine their combined adjusted net income, which will be compared to the state’s conversion chart to find the basic support obligation.
In the case where a parent does not have any income, the court may impute potential income based on the parent’s most recent job or local job opportunities that the parent would qualify for. This is particularly for cases when a court believes the parent might be willfully unemployed or underemployed.
Note that the courts can deviate from the amount determined by the guideline above to better meet the child’s best interests. For example, a court may add expenses to the guideline amount for things like daycare, extracurricular activities, or private school tuition. Judges may also deviate if either parent has extraordinary medical expenses, additional expenses due to the child's special needs, or for any other reason deemed appropriate.