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Can willful underemployment or unemployment affect child support?

In Illinois family law cases, the courts will take extra care to make sure children are provided for. That means the child support order will be calculated to account for all their needs and be largely based on the parents’ means.

Often, the parents’ employment is a key factor in how much will be paid. Whether it is the custodial parent receiving the payments or the non-custodial parent making them, the court will investigate allegations that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. Knowing how the law addresses this potential problem is important to determining a fair amount.

What will the court consider with underemployment or unemployment?

Courts look not only at a parent’s current income, but also what they could be earning.

If, for example, a person has a professional degree and they are working in a lower-paying job, the court can look at their skills and education, check the types of jobs available and order child support based on what they could earn, not what they do earn. Other factors that are important in this assessment are their past employment, their overall credentials and if they have non-income producing assets.

For people without a long enough work history for the court to make a complete analysis, it will be calculated based on the federal poverty guidelines for an individual and their potential income will be set at 75% of that number.

Calculating child support can be complicated

The child’s needs are the primary factor in calculating child support. Their best interests need to be served and both parents are expected to contribute to that. However, if there is willful unemployment or underemployment, the court will not simply base the child support order on income, but potential income. Those in this situation from either perspective need to understand their rights based on the law and be fully prepared to effectively address any dispute.

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