Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Parent with custody can be ordered to pay child support

In re Marriage of Turk
            Generally, a parent awarded custody receives percentage child support set at the statutory rate which is basically a percentage of net pay (after tax, union dues, medical & dental insurance premiums and several other defined deductions). However in a recent case, the Illinois Supreme Court stated that the rule is not inflexible.
            In re Marriage of Turk, the parties had two children ages 17 and 15 and the father was awarded custody of them by agreement. The mother had some expanded visitation with the younger child having (in addition to alternating weekends) Monday to Wednesday mornings. This schedule gave her nearly equal time with that younger child. There was however a gross disparity in income with the father earning about $150,000 per year and that the mother earning less than $10,000 per year. The father wanted all child support for him to be terminated because he was awarded custody, i.e. "the residential parent". Instead of terminating the father's obligation, the judge actually ordered the father to pay the mother $600 per month in child support and to pay all uncovered medical expenses.

          The father’s position was that as residential parent, child support setting was automatic. The court however said a trial judge can order either or both parents to pay an amount that is reasonable and necessary for the support of children and that courts have the option to also order additional amounts for other expenses such as uncovered medical. The Supreme Court looked at how much time the mother had with the younger child in relation to the income of each party and their respective ability to provide for the children when in each other's care. It would be unfair to allow the child to stay substantial amounts of time in both households but with one (the father's) having way more money than the other. In such instances, a trial court can actually order a parent with custody to pay child support if the circumstances and the best interests of the child justify it.

       The take-away is that while there is a mathematical calculation applied to child support in most instances, judges can use their discretion to vary from that formula when the circumstances justify it.

      To read the entire case, click here: In re Marriage of Turk