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Unpaid Illinois child support obligations total over $3 billion

Photo of Karen Lavin


Normally, Illinoisans think of child support as an unfortunate, but, ultimately, personal problem. But that assumption is only partially true. Certainly the cost of food, clothing and shelter is borne by the custodial parent. However, when the parent cannot meet that burden or needs help in getting the noncustodial parent to pay child support, the state can step in to help.

Many custodial parents need state assistance in collecting child support. They need help because nearly 340,000 families across Illinois are owed $3 billion in unpaid child support. Nationally, the number balloons to a little more than $115 billion.

The size of the number makes the issue look black and white. Noncustodial parents simply have to do more to meet their parental and legal obligations. But as with most things, the picture muddies, depending on one's point of view.

Take, for example, one Illinois couple. The mother is living in a trailer park with two daughters. The mother is owed about $30,000 in back child support. The father claims he cares, but that he cannot do more because he is disabled. He also believes the mother and kids are doing just fine. The mother, who struggles to keep her mobile home connected to utilities, is less sanguine about her situation. She wants the father to do more. The father, in turn, says he wants to do more, but he asks how he can do more since he has nothing to give.

Not everyone's situation, however, is like the couple described above. Some noncustodial parents can pay support, but simply choose not to. In these cases, custodial parents have legal options. For example, if a noncustodial parent does not pay, the government can garnish wages, withhold tax returns, suspend a driver's license or, as a last resort, put the noncustodial parent in jail.

Illinoisans in such a situation may benefit from consulting with an experienced family law attorney.

Source: ABC, "Deadbeat Illinois: Unpaid Child Support," May 16, 2014

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