For this blog, I would like to discuss some issues regarding child support. Under Illinois law, the non-custodial parent MUST pay child support to the custodial parent. By custodial parent, I mean the parent whose home is where the child resides. Illinois law requires the non-custodial parent to pay 20 percent of their net income to the custodial parent for one child. The amount of required child support increases with the number of children.
I largely represent low-income individuals and determining their income for child support can be difficult when the client does not have steady employment or is an immigrant with non-legal status. Therefore, folks in these situations MUST make sure that they receive payment for full, part-time or sporadic employment by check. We need a paper trail so we can determine the client's net income needed for the child support calculation.
When the non-custodial parent has no proof of income, determining the amount of child support that is required can be a terrific battle. Family law judges are not concerned with the non-custodial parent's immigration status. Rather, a judge's job here is to solely make a determination that is in the best interest of the child. It is ALWAYS in the best interest of the child that the non-custodial parent pay the largest amount of child support as possible. Therefore, without documentation of income, the non-custodial parent will most likely pay more than the statutory amount because a determination of income will include "hearsay" testimony from the custodial parent. "Hearsay" evidence in this type of case is generally a statement by one party that is not supported by any type of hard evidence. Such as, the custodial parent may present testimony that the non-custodial parent's income is larger than reported. Without a paper trail, the custodial parent has no way to prove such allegations are false.
For example, I have a client who works as a handyman and employment is infrequent. He does not have legal immigration status and is always paid in cash for his work. He also lives with his girlfriend who provides for all of his living expenses including car payments. The custodial parent, the mother, is aware that my client lives in a nice apartment and drives a nice car. Therefore, she believes, and her attorney argued before the judge, that my client is earning substantially more than he has reported to her on required financial disclosure documents. My difficulty here is refuting the mother's allegations because my client is paid in cash and I have no hard evidence as to his financial situation.
With slim evidence and the fact that the judge is required to make a determination that is in the best interest of the child, my client is required to pay more in child support than the statutory amount and more than he can reasonably afford. To complicate matters, when the non-custodial parent, such as in the case here, fails to make court-ordered child support payments, no matter if he/she has the funds or not, the custodial parent can file a motion that requires the custodial parent to pay up or face jail time. As an attorney, I can merely argue that my client does not have the funds to pay the required amount of child support in these situations. But without hard evidence, my arguments fall on deaf ears. Therefore, I cannot stress enough that non-custodial parents require any type of employer to pay them by check so your attorney will have hard evidence to argue your case. In addition, for those that work odd jobs, these folks need to keep a diary of each job, what work was performed, and a copy of the check they received as payment for their work.
Another matter I would like to discuss is the form in which the non-custodial parent pay their child support. I have found that my low-income clients generally make their child support payments directly to the custodial parent in cash. Once again we have evidentiary issues. I have a case where the custodial parent is claiming my client has never paid child support, going back three years. The custodial parent here is flat-out lying. My client has made every payment. Unfortunately, he has paid the custodial parent directly and in cash. Thus, we have no evidence that he has made any payments. The dishonest custodial parent has began legal action to collect three years worth of child support in which she already received every penny. Once again, I am handicapped in arguing this case because I have no hard evidence that child support payments were ever made. As a result, my client may be required to make three years worth of payments a second time.
As you can see, child support can be a brutal business. While the goal is always to make sure the child is provided for, the result is often a severe financial dilemma for the non-custodial parent and one that can provide a means for the custodial parent to commit fraud. For those facing these or any type of child support issues, contact me, Attorney Anthony B. Gordon, and I will help solve your issues whether it be advice on maintaining a paper trail or representing your interests in court. I can be reached at 312-767-9500 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.