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Post divorce or split: taking steps to provide for a child's financial needs

Whether parents are going through a divorce or were never married, it's important to take steps to legally decide and define terms related to child custody. There's nothing more important that a child's wellbeing and having a legally enforceable child custody and visitation agreement helps a child feel more secure in knowing when he or she will see or be with each parent and also helps ensure that both parents abide by previously agreed-upon terms.

Having a formal child custody agreement also benefits the custodial parent who can subsequently take steps to seek child support. The custodial parent is defined as the parent who has primary custody and provides for a child's daily needs. In cases where parents share joint physical custody, the parent with a higher income may be required to pay child support. In cases where parents were never married, a father's paternity must be legally established prior to taking any action related to child support.

In Illinois, child support amounts are based on a non-custodial parent's net-income and the number of children he or she is supporting. For example, a parent who does not have physical primary custody of a son or daughter would be required to pay 20 percent of his or her net income.

Every child is entitled to receive financial support from both parents. Child support payments help provide for a child's basic needs such as housing, food and clothing as well as medical and dental care, transportation, education and extracurricular activities. While most child support orders terminate when a child turns age 18, in Illinois a paying parent may also be required to provide financial assistance while a child pursues an undergraduate college degree.

Child support agreements are not set in stone and should be reevaluated every couple of years to account for a child's changing needs as well as income and lifestyle changes. In cases where a paying parent's financial situation changes, steps may be taken to modify the terms of a child support agreement.

Source: American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, "Child Support Issues," Feb. 24, 2015

FindLaw.com, "The FindLaw Guide to Getting Child Support Payments," Feb. 24, 2015

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