New Case Clarifies the Definition of Income in Child Support Cases

Child support in Illinois is usually calculated as a fixed percentage of the payor parent’s income. For the vast majority of people, determining income is fairly straightforward - your wages minus taxes and other compulsory deductions. For higher asset individuals such as those with significant investments, however, the issue can become somewhat murky. 

Recently, the Illinois Appellate Court sought to provide some clarity on this issue. In the court case of a divorced couple, the court considered whether the proceeds of the sale of stock should be considered as income for child support purposes, triggering the seller’s duty to report changes in income and, accordingly, a modification of his child support obligations. The payor parent had owned the stock prior to the divorce and sold it without profit or loss. The trial court determined-and the Appellate Court agreed-that because the sale did not increase his overall assets, the proceeds could not be considered income and therefore did not affect his support obligation. 

There are, however, several types of irregular income that can affect a parent’s support obligations: 

  • Bonuses
  • Lottery or contest winnings
  • Inheritance
  • Personal injury and other legal settlements or judgments
  • Profits from a business
  • Gains realized from the sale of capital assets 

What constitutes income for child support purposes is a more complex matter than it initially appears to be. What’s more, the decisions of Illinois courts on this issue have not always been consistent. An experienced Illinois child support lawyer can help guide you through this subject, whether you are an obligor parent concerned about how a sale or settlement may affect your obligations or an obligee concerned that the other parent is not paying his or her fair share.

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