When couples with children separate or divorce, they must come to some agreements regarding how they will continue to financially support their children. If they can't agree on child support, they will have to go to court and ask a judge to decide. If they can resolve the issue on their own, their child support agreement must be converted into an official child support order for it to become enforceable. Then, if the parent responsible for making child support payments fails to pay, the other parent can go back to court (or to a local agency) and ask for help enforcing the order and collecting payment.
This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the Illinois. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.
Under Illinois law, both parents have a duty to provide financial support for their children. Child support includes amounts that are reasonable and necessary to provide for a child’s education and physical, mental, and emotional needs.
Whether you’re divorcing or you’ve never been married, when your relationship ends, you’ll need to get an official child support order. In Illinois, child support amounts are determined according to a percentage of the paying parent’s net income and the total number of children. For more information, see Child Support Laws in Illinois by Susan Bishop. The parent who receives child support is known as the “receiving parent,” while the parent who has to pay is called “the paying parent.”
Child support can be an area of high conflict. Although most paying parents have no problem with their support obligations, some simply refuse to pay court-ordered support. The sections below will explain how child support can be collected in such cases.
The sole mission of the Illinois Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is to provide child support services based on the applicable state and federal laws. DCSS uses an administrative (meaning, non-judicial) process to provide a number of services, including a payments processing center (the Illinois State Disbursement Unit, or ILSDU) that accepts checks from paying parents and issues funds to receiving parents. Another of DCSS’s most important functions is enforcement of existing child support orders.
DCSS has a wide variety of procedural options that are geared toward catching up with parents who aren’t making scheduled child support payments. DCSS’s work prevents children and families from falling into poverty. Their tactics can be a thorn in the side of paying parents, so it’s best not to fall behind on your child support obligation.
Generally speaking, DCSS is capable of implementing enforcement measures if paying parents aren’t meeting their obligations. However, they may have a backlog of cases. In urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it’s in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and ask a judge to enforce a support order on the child's behalf. This can be more effective than waiting for DCSS to act.
DCSS keeps track of all accounts and if a paying parent falls behind, DCSS will choose one or more of the following methods to extract payment:
If you’re the paying parent, don’t let yourself fall into arrearages and you won’t ever have to face these tough tactics. Get in touch with DCSS, a family lawyer, or a legal aid attorney for advice about reducing your payments and paying off your arrearages. The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem and let arrearages build up until DCSS takes enforcement measures against you.
Illinois Compiled Statutes (Family Laws)
Illinois Courts Citizen Self-Help
Illinois Legal Aid (child support information and legal aid for qualifying individuals)
Illinois Child Support Services