Deviation from Statutory Child Support Guidelines

The Illinois child support guidelines set forth in the statute are the general rule in determining a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If your financial circumstances are unique, or the needs of your child are outside of the norm, the proper amount of child support in your case may deviate from the guideline percentages. Deviations can be made above or below guidelines, and can be made for a variety of reasons.

In order for the court to deviate from the statutory guidelines, it must make specific findings before doing so, taking into consideration the best interests of the child. In determining whether a deviation is appropriate, the court must also consider the following specific factors:

  • The financial resources and needs of the child
  • The financial resources and needs of the custodial parent
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved
  • The physical, mental and emotional needs of the child
  • The financial resources and needs of the non-custodial parent.

Generally speaking, it is rare for the court to deviate from statutory guidelines. One reason a court may make a downward deviation from guidelines is if the parties have shared parenting time with the children and similar income levels, such that they are each providing for the children’s food, clothing, and shelter in roughly equal amounts.

Another reason for a downward deviation may be if the supporting parent has an extraordinarily high level of income. In cases where the supporting parent earns a very high income, the court may deem it appropriate that he or she pay less than the strict percentage guidelines would provide. Otherwise the non-supporting parent would receive far more money than would be required for the support of the child or children. The decision as to whether a deviation is appropriate is a matter of judicial discretion, and the level of income at which a court may decide a deviation is appropriate varies from case to case, judge to judge, and jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

An common reason for a court may make an upward deviation from child support guidelines is if the needs of the child are higher than normal due to a disability, dietary or health concern, or other unique circumstance. A court may also determine that an upward deviation is appropriate if the supporting parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, or has substantial assets, the court may find an upward deviation from statutory guidelines is appropriate. As with upward deviations, downward deviation are the rare exception to the general rule, and judges are given wide latitude to decide whether deviations from guidelines are appropriate.

Even if the court does deem that a deviation is appropriate for whatever reason, the judge must nonetheless state the amount of support that would have been required under guidelines, and state the specific reasons for setting support above or below the guideline amount. A court’s failure to make these specific findings can have significant consequences when it comes to enforcement or modification of the support order. Accordingly, having an experienced family law attorney representing your interests can go a long way toward avoiding legal problems in the future.

If you believe that your case warrants a deviation from statutory child support guidelines, or if you are seeking to simply apply the guideline amounts, you should contact the knowledgeable family law attorneys at Kollias & Giese, P.C. for an explanation of how the laws apply to the facts in your case.