As a parent preparing to begin a divorce in Illinois, there’s no doubt your children are your number one priority.

And they should be.

You love your kids and want the world for them.

So now that you're getting a divorce, how do you make sure they get the financial support they’re entitled to and their needs are put first above all else?

That’s where child support in Illinois comes in.

And there's a lot more to determining Illinois child support than you might think.


What is the purpose of Illinois child support?

Child support is one of four important topics that must be discussed, negotiated, and resolved by a couple during divorce mediation along with:

The purpose of child support is to ensure that the financial needs of a couple's children are being met by the divorcing spouses.

But it's important to understand that child support is about more than just money.

Many parents think the purpose of child support is to make sure they have enough money after they’re divorced to pay for the items their kids need.

But that’s only partially correct.

Divorce is hard on your children. The fighting and stress can really take a toll on them.

Soon you will no longer be husband and wife, but you’ll always be mom and dad.

Child support payments show your kids you still and will always love them and you care about their welfare.



There are a few things you need to know about the challenges of determining IL child support:

  • The Illinois child support guideline doesn’t include all the expenses required to raise a child, and it isn’t applicable in all situations, such as those with variable income, or large bonuses.
  • While inflation appears to be under control in 2024, economic uncertainty continues as parent's ability to make ends meet is challenged due to the persistent higher cost of living, and increased mortgage rates.
  • The IL Child Support Guidelines were last revised in a meaningful way in 2019, so if another revision is around the corner, how do parents who are divorcing now handle any changes which are yet to come?
  • This topic has less to do with Illinois child support laws and more to do with money, negotiation, and doing what’s best for your kids.
  • There is more than meets the eye on this issue and in the majority of cases, the subject of child support in Illinois is much too complex to try to resolve on your own.

That's why you and your spouse will get the best result by mediating with us.


"Most parents think the Illinois state child support guidelines output a specific dollar amount and that’s that. But the reality is the guidelines are just a starting point for negotiations.

Plus there are a lot of expenses not covered by the basic child support payment amount.

That's why the best way to come to a fair agreement and ensure your children get the financial support they need is to work with an experienced mediator like me."

- Divorce Mediator Joe Dillon


Take Your First Step to a Fair and Child-Focused Divorce!


How has the IL child support calculator evolved, and how does it now work?

Federal law requires all 50 states to have a mechanized way by which to determine child support. So every state has a child support guideline and the formulas vary from state to state.

The guidelines are meant to help parents determine a minimum amount of child support to be paid, in an attempt to ensure their children's financial well-being, post-divorce.

Previously, Illinois used something called the Percentage of Obligor Net Income Model.

This model simply took a percentage of the net income of one parent (spouse) and gave it to the other parent (spouse) based on the number of children the couple had together.

But now things have gotten a whole lot more complicated.

Illinois switched over to something called an Income-Shares Model. This model takes into account a wide variety of factors including, but not limited to:

  • The number of children;
  • The incomes of both parties;
  • The number of overnights the children spends with each parent;
  • Who takes the child(ren) as a tax deduction;
  • And who pays for their health insurance.

Behind the scenes, the guideline tries to estimate the minimum an average couple in the State of Illinois would spend on their children based on the number of children in question, and the incomes of both parties.

But here's the thing...

You're not an average couple. And your kids don't deserve the minimum.

Typically, most couples disagree with the dollar amount the Illinois child support guideline outputs.

Especially those that live in Chicago, Evanston, or Northbrook where the cost to raise kids is much higher than the state average.

And why wouldn't they?

Who do you think knows how much you really spend on your kids.


Or the State of Illinois?



The IL Child Support Guideline can be a formula or a suggestion.

Even though it may look like it, the IL child support calculator is not a formula, but rather, simply a guideline that suggests to divorcing parents an amount to pay child support.


The child support guidelines in Illinois are open to interpretation.

And can be just a starting point for negotiation.

Don’t forget, this guideline was developed by The State of Illinois. But the State of Illinois doesn’t know the exact payment amount required to ensure your kids are properly supported so they’ll thrive.

Only you know what it truly costs to raise your kids!

It's really up to you and your spouse to decide whether or not you want to follow the output of the Illinois child support calculator. Or negotiate an amount that's more appropriate for your children instead.

Which is not so easy to do given the nature of divorce.



A lot is excluded from the Illinois Child Support Guidelines.

So far, you've learned child support in Illinois is determined by a guideline that outputs an amount that’s open to negotiation.

But you also need to understand that while basics such as food, shelter, and clothing are covered, there are still many other expenses that aren’t.

And as a parent, you know there’s so much more involved than just feeding your kids and putting a roof over their head!

There’s also:

  • Daycare;
  • Sports, dance lessons, and other extra-curricular activities;
  • Music lessons;
  • Braces;
  • Religious celebrations such as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or Confirmations;
  • Laptops and smartphones;
  • Car insurance;
  • Summer camps;
  • And the list goes on and on…

All of these are known as "extraordinary" expenses and are not included in the basic child support calculation.

These items must be discussed and negotiated separately to ensure your children get the financial support they need and deserve.

Starting to see why determining child support is not so simple in an Illinois divorce case?



There are other exclusions to Illinois child support.

In addition to the regular and “special” costs associated with raising a child, there are even more issues that need to be addressed in the child support discussion.

Such as:

  • Life insurance to ensure the children’s financial well-being;
  • Paying for college;
  • How long child support is paid;
  • Under what conditions child support may be modified or stopped (because for some children, it may extend beyond age 18).

Making the list of what is not resolved by using the calculator longer and longer.

So as you can see, determining child support in Illinois is a very complicated undertaking.



In order to determine child support, you will first need to agree on maintenance.

As if all of this wasn't complicated enough, guess what?

Since the Illinois child support guideline takes into account the incomes of both parties, you and your spouse will first need to agree on a maintenance amount, before you can agree on a child support amount.

Because maintenance is considered a reduction in income for the party that is paying it, and an increase in income for the party receiving it.

And those new incomes for each of you will need to be inputted into the guideline calculator.

Maybe you're wondering, "How am I going to know how much maintenance I can afford to pay, or will need to receive until we get this child support amount sorted out?"

It's kind of a "chicken and egg" thing, isn't it?



When the law gets involved, it’s a problem.

when-a-judge-gets-involved-it-is-a-problem-wThere’s something you need to understand here: In a litigated divorce, a family law judge determines child support in court.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

Because that judge will dictate child support by court order and both spouses might wind up with something they don’t think is fair or that doesn’t appropriately meet the needs of their children.

That’s why it’s better for parents to negotiate this issue and that’s exactly what mediation is all about.

In Illinois, when you use mediationyou get to decide - and come to an agreement that puts your children first and you both agree is fair - out of court - instead of letting a stranger decide a child support order for you.



You’ll get the best result by mediating with us.

mediation-best-for-divorce-equitable-mediation-wChild support issues will vary based on your situation and circumstances.

And as you’ve learned, there is more than meets the eye on this topic. So don't risk putting your children's financial future in jeopardy by trying to resolve child support on your own.

It’s better to mediate child support (and your divorce) with us instead.

Using our extensive knowledge of the complex matters of child support in IL, we’ll help you and your spouse determine a child support amount that accurately reflects your lives as parents and takes into consideration the specialized needs of your children.

One that covers all regular, extraordinary, and future expenses.

  • We’ll talk about what it will take to make sure your kids get what they need and deserve. Not just what the formula says you have to pay so they can “get by.”
  • Guide you through the difficult, but necessary conversations and educate you on how the decisions you’re making will impact your children now and in the future.
  • Help you negotiate any issues of disagreement so you can create an agreement you both find fair and equitable regarding the support of your children.
  • Make sure your agreement improves cash flow, minimizes tax issues, and avoids penalties whenever possible.

Because no two situations are alike.

Your children are unique and your child support agreement should reflect that, too.


Why be forced to accept a child support order dictated by a judge in family court when you can create an agreement that works for your children now and into the future instead?

If you want to make decisions as parents, not as litigants, do what’s best for your kids and mediate your divorce with Equitable Mediation.

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Early in the process?

The choices you make before you start your divorce are critical.

But you can only make smart choices if you take the time to prepare first! Learn how.



Other Useful Resources:

Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator

Written by Joe Dillon, Divorce Mediator

Joe Dillon is a divorce mediator and founder of Equitable Mediation. He holds a master’s degree in finance, and has completed formal training in negotiation and mediation from Harvard University, MIT, Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois campus), the NJ Association of Professional Mediators, the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysis. As a child, Joe witnessed first-hand the damage of attorney-driven litigation during his parents' divorce. And in 2008, he set out to offer divorcing couples a more peaceful and dignified alternative. Throughout his professional career, Joe has helped over a thousand couples reach a fair and equitable divorce agreement - out of court.