By now, most people with pending child support cases in Illinois know that the law drastically changed on July 1, 2017. As of that date, the State of Illinois officially changed to an “income shares” model, which calculates child support by looking at the gross incomes of both parties as well as the time each party spends with the minor child(ren). However, many people may not realize that parts of the old law still remain intact today, even if the concepts are worded differently in the new law.
The old statute specifically stated “the Court, in its discretion, in addition to setting child support pursuant to the guidelines and factors, may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to contribute to the following expenses, if determined by the court to be reasonable: (a) health needs not covered by insurance; (b) child care; (c) education; and (d) extracurricular activities.” In other words, under the old law, the Court had the authority to require a party to pay child support, as well as contribute to certain expenses for the child, such as day care, extracurricular expenses, educational expenses, and medical expenses. In my experience, most parties owing a duty of support were required to also contribute to the child's day care, educational, extracurricular, and medical expenses, where applicable. Although the new law does not state this language verbatim, it appears the spirit of this language is still alive and well. Rather than simply state the Court may award these expenses above and beyond child support, the new (current) statute specifically addresses each individual expense and in some cases, clarifies the definition of each expense.
With respect to extracurricular activities and school expenses, paragraph 3.6 of the new law states, “the court, in its discretion, in addition to the basic child support obligation, may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to the child to contribute to the reasonable school and extracurricular activity expenses incurred which are intended to enhance the educational, athletic, social, or cultural development of the child.” Similarly to the old language, this language provides that a party may be required to pay extracurricular expenses above and beyond child support. However, unlike the old language, this language limits the definition of extracurricular activities to only include those activities that “are intended to enhance the educational, athletic, social, or cultural development of the child.” Similarly, with respect to child care, paragraph 3.7 of the new statute states, “the court, in its discretion, in addition to the basic child support obligation, may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to the child to contribute to the reasonable child care expenses of the child. The child care expenses shall be made payable directly to a party or directly to the child care provider at the time of child care services.” Unlike the old law, paragraph 3.7 further expands upon the meaning of “child care” to include expenses “reasonably necessary to enable a parent or non-parent custodian to be employment, to attend educational or vocational training programs to improve employment opportunities, or to search for employment.”
With respect to health care expenses, the new law makes it a point to state that “a portion of the basic child support obligation is intended to cover basic ordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses.” As a result, at first glance, it appears that the Court cannot require a party to contribute to ordinary/routine out of pocket medical expenses. However, paragraph (4)(B) goes on to state that “the court, in its discretion, may order either or both parents to contribute to the reasonable health care needs of the child not covered by insurance, including, but not limited to, unreimbursed medical, dental, orthodontic, or vision expenses and any prescription medication for the child not covered under the child's health insurance.” Based upon this, it is unclear what the legislature intended by “ordinary out of pocket medical expenses,” as same is not defined by the statute. In any event, it appears that the Court may still require both parties to contribute to out of pocket medical costs, which is still in line with past practice. As a result, it appears not much has changed with respect to educational, extracurricular, day care, and out of pocket medical expenses, and the parties can expect to have to contribute to same in most cases.