Modification of a Child Support Order

There are an estimated 24 million children in the United States currently being raised in single-parent homes. While this may not represent every child of unmarried or divorced parents due to the nature of the study, it clearly indicates that a large percentage of American children may be subject to shared custody, visitation and child support arrangements.

If you are a single parent and are divorced from your child’s other parent, it is very likely that a child support order has been established. Illinois law maintains that both parents are responsible for the financial support of their child, requiring them to “provide for the reasonable and necessary educational, physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.”

When arranging a support order, consideration is given to the resources of both the custodial and non-custodial parent, the child’s standard of living prior to the divorce, and the expected needs of the child. The law also provides guidelines for the amount (by percentage of net income) the supporting parent is expected to pay. Once set in place, both parents must adhere to the requirements of the support order or face penalties up to and including probation and prison.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) is responsible for making sure that child support order and awards follow applicable laws, and meet the needs of families’ evolving situations.  At least every three years, DCSS is required to notify both parents of their right to request a review of their support order. According to the DCSS, the review process may be appropriate when:

  • Three or more years have passed since the order was enacted or the last review;

  • The non-custodial parent experiences a “substantial change” in income or situation;

  • Healthcare coverage for the child was not addressed in the initial order; or

  • DCSS receives a written request for review from either parent or another state.

For example, if one parent has been paying ordered support, and is suddenly laid off or unable to work due to illness, a support modification may be appropriate. Any situation that would make meeting the obligations of the original order much more difficult may qualify for a review and should be addressed as soon as possible.

If a review request is granted, DCSS then gathers situational and income information for both parents. A recalculation of support is done, again considering all of the factors as required by law, and both parents are notified. Within 30 days of the notice, parents have the right to request a redetermination by DCSS or a hearing if they disagree with the results of the modification review. Once finalized, the modification becomes part of the support order, and failure to comply by either parent carries the same penalties as the original order.

If you are paying child support and would like to request a modification review, contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. We can help you understand the process and ensure your support order fairly and accurately balances the needs of your child with the complexity of your specific situation.