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Get behind on Illinois child support at your own peril

Photo of Karen Lavin

Having a child is a wonderful blessing and an awesome responsibility. One of those responsibilities is financial support. That responsibility exists regardless of whether the Illinois parents are together or separate. Either way, Illinois expects and requires both parents to do their fair share. But, sometimes, what the law considers a parent's fair share and what that parent can actually give are not one and the same. That mismatch can pile up little by little into crushing debt.

Consider an example. Assume a parent owes $500 per month in child support, but they can only pay $300 per month. That is not a big difference, right? But, $200 after $200, after $200 adds up. Factor in interest and fees, and the number expands rapidly.

The situation is even worse for parents who cannot pay for some reason. One example is imprisonment.

Many child-support agencies view imprisonment as voluntary impoverishment. In other words, these agencies treat prison time the same as they would treat a parent who chooses not to work. That is, these agencies continue to charge, even though the person is behind bars with no way to stay current on their payments. And, as a result, once these people get out of jail, the missed payments, interest and fees can be crushing.

Nonetheless, this may change soon. The Obama administration has written new regulations that would require states to view incarceration as involuntary impoverishment. If the regulations move forward, the change would mean that Illinoisans who go to jail would be able to suspend their child-support payments.

To learn more about child support and, especially how it applies to their situation, Illinoisans may benefit from speaking with an experienced family-law attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, "For men in prison, child support becomes a crushing debt," Eli Hager, Oct. 18, 2015

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