Child support must be paid -- even when it is hard to come up with the money. Failure to do so hurts not only the child, but the parent failing to pay, because of the penalties the state of Illinois will impose.
The process often starts small. For example, the parents may try to resolve the matter on their own or the parent who cannot meet their child-support obligation may ask the court that issued the child-support order to lower the parent's obligation. The court may agree to do so if the amount is no longer in line with the parent's income (perhaps because the parent lost his or her job or there is another change in financial situation).
If child-support modification is not appropriate, and the parent continues not to pay, the state can become more aggressive. Common approaches are to withhold income from a parent's paycheck or to seize any tax refund they would have received. The state can also suspend or deny licenses (such as a driver's license, a hunting license or even a professional license). In most cases, these approaches will resolve the problem.
But if these consequences do not do the trick, the state can pull out its biggest gun: incarceration. The state is cautious about this option because a parent sitting in jail makes it hard for that same parent to make money.
Illinoisans should avoid this outcome if at all possible. There is the immediate reason: going to jail is hardly a fun experience. But there's also a long-term reason: going to jail will put them deeper in the child-support hole because, again, they cannot make money when they are in jail. That's hardly a recipe for digging out of their child-support debt.
Illinoisans who find themselves going through child-support problems may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced family-law attorney.
Source: Office of Child Support Enforcement, "Alternatives to Incarceration," Accessed on Feb. 8, 2015