One of the primary financial issues in a divorce with children in Illinois, or in a parentage case, is child support. Of course there is the issues of determining income and setting support. But what costs are actually included in that child support? What does child support not cover?
Child support in Illinois is generally set by statute. 750 ILCS 5/505 sets forth a method for calculating gross income, net income, and child support. The same section also contains provisions regarding certain specified expenses, but the courts have broader discretion in determining both the types of expenses to divide and the division of those expenses. Because of this discretion, different counties and different judges may have slightly different practices. In the remainder, I will discuss what I have observed from the judges in McHenry County, Illinois.
1. Health Insurance: The cost of health insurance for the minor children is not included in the base child support amount. The statute requires this cost to be divided in proportion to the parties’ incomes. Typically, when these costs are relatively fixed and predictable, the child support obligor’s part is added to child support if the recipient is paying for health insurance or deducted if the obligor is providing health insurance.
2. Uncovered Medical Expenses: Uncovered medical expenses are typically not included in child support and are set separately by the judge. These including things like deductibles, co pays, other uncovered medical expenses, dental expenses, orthodontic expenses, psychological care and a variety of other expenses typically considered as “medical” care. Often these expenses are divided in proportion to net incomes in Illinois divorce cases, but some judges prefer to divide these expenses evenly, regardless of the distribution of income.
3. Extracurricular Expenses: Because of the variation in extracurricular expenses, these are generally addressed separate from child support. Courts exercise a lot of discretion and, depending on the situation, can allocate these expenses in a number of ways and may also include limiting language such as the number or total expense of activities during a particular period. The courts can be sensitive to custodial parents using extracurricular activities and the associated expenses to “punish” or keep the children away from the other parent in some cases.
4. School Registration Expenses: While other school expenses, such as clothing and supplies are not divided separately, it is fairly common for school registration expenses and lesson expenses to be divided separate from child support. McHenry County divorce judges generally have a preference for public school unless the children have in the past attended private school. When using a private school, however, it is not uncommon for the court to also consider assigning more responsibility for the costs to the parent requesting private school if the other parent is objecting.
5. Clothing and Household Goods: Typically, clothing and other basic goods for the child are supposed to be covered by the child support paid. It is fairly uncommon to see these types of expenses divided outside of the child support award. However, if the child has special circumstances or requires specialized clothing, the court can consider these additional costs and make provisions. In divorce cases in McHenry County, this is fairly rare.
6. Automobile Expenses: Automobile expenses for children 16+ can be significant. There is the cost of the car, insurance, repairs and maintenance, etc. My experience in McHenry County divorces is that the judges typically consider driving as a privilege and expect the child to cover these costs themselves if they want to drive and, therefore, will not assign these costs to either parent. If a parent wants to provide a car to the child, then it is that parent’s responsibility. There are exceptions when the child needs a car for education, work, or transportation and takes on responsibilities like providing some or all transportation for parenting time. My impression is that the more necessary the vehicle is for education or the more benefit the parents derive from having a child driving, the more likely the court will consider this a divisible expense.
The bottom line is that if you and your ex agree on what expenses to include, the court will probably accept the agreement. If you do not, the court has discretion over a wide variety of expenses and to divide those expenses. However, the court’s are aware of the child support already paid and judges in McHenry County are not comping at the bit to put more court mandated expenses into the mix.