Life is constantly changing. A family law order or agreement that made perfect sense several years ago may no longer be fair or functional. If you or your former spouse’s financial circumstances have substantially changed, you may be entitled to modify ongoing financial obligations, including child support and spousal support.
These cases can be challenging: if you are seeking a modification, you must be able to submit compelling evidence that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that justifies a modification. At this time. it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced Illinois post-decree modification lawyer who can protect your rights.
Understanding the Substantial Change in Circumstances Standard
Modifying Child Support When Family Services is Involved
For child support payments, Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act governs post-decree modifications. Under this standard, a parent can obtain a modification to their child support obligations if they can prove that there is a 20 percent gap between the current child support order and the amount that the child support order would be if the Illinois guidelines were re-applied to the current circumstances.
In other words, a 20 percent change in income is generally considered to be sufficient to seek a modification to a child support order. However, it is important to note that this modification is only possible in cases where the parent is receiving child support enforcement services from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and only when 36 months have elapsed since the order for support was entered or last modified.
Modifying Child Support When Family Services is Not Involved
If the Department of Healthcare and Family Services is not involved in your case, it is still possible to modify a child support agreement/child support order. If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, Illinois family law courts have the authority to adjust child support orders and settlements. In fact, our state’s family courts have broad discretion to modify child support when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that would justify such an action, and an adjustment is possible that would both support the best interests of the child and protect the legal rights of each parent. To be clear, a change in one parent’s income is not always required to justify a child support modification. Quite the contrary; there are many other circumstances wherein a sufficient change can be established that justifies an increase in child support. Some common examples include:
An increase in inflation or basic cost of living;
A change in the needs of the child, especially increased health or educational expenses;;
Increased financial ability of the parent paying child support;
Decreased financial ability of the parent receiving child support;
Remarriage by either parent; and
Change in the child custody arrangement or overall parenting time.
Child support modification cases wherein family services are not involved tend to be somewhat more complicated. If you find yourself in this situation, you should seek help from an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Your post-decree modification lawyer can help you find the very best solution in your case — whether that means negotiating a child support modification settlement or taking additional legal action.
Alimony obligations can also be modified on the grounds that a spouse is no longer reasonably able to make payments. Once again, a significant and unexpected loss of income may be sufficient to allow for this type of modification. On the flip side, spousal maintenance may also be modified on the grounds that the receiving spouse is getting remarried or that they have entered into a new cohabitative relationship.
Be Proactive: Why You Need to Act to Seek a Modification
If you cannot make child support or spousal support payments, you need to take action. Failing to seek a modification, and missing payments as a result, could get you in serious trouble. It could be viewed as willful violation of a court order. This can lead to huge headaches, wage garnishment, and even jail time. Be proactive: If you cannot make payments due to your financial situation, or if your current payments are simply unfair and overly cumbersome, you have legal options available.
Get Help with Your Post-Decree Modification Case
At Keller Legal Services, our Illinois family law attorneys have deep experience handling all sides of post-decree modifications. If you can no longer make payments due to a substantial change in circumstances, or if your former partner is petitioning for a modification, we can help.
For a fully confidential review of your family law case, please do not hesitate to reach out to our law firm today. With locations in Wheaton and Aurora, we serve communities throughout the region, including in Kane County, DuPage County, and Will County.