Whether you are a parent preparing for a divorce, an unmarried person expecting a baby, or a soon-to-be newlywed making marriage arrangements, it is important to understand your rights and responsibilities regarding your current, expected, or future children. The state of Illinois, as in every other state, recognizes the right of every child to, at the very least, receive financial support from both parents. The state also permits parents to make a wide variety of decisions on the child’s behalf. Parents may decide where the child will attend school, what type of religious training her or she will receive, and how and where the child will seek medical care when needed. A parent, however, is not permitted to unilaterally waive child support on the child’s behalf and the court may intervene any time a parent attempts to do so.
A prenuptial agreement is a useful security tool for a couple looking to get married. Such agreements are used to specify individual and marital property, and to make advance arrangements regarding what should happen in the event of divorce or the death of one spouse. Commonly addressed issues include asset disposition, spousal maintenance, and negotiated agreements regarding life insurance and retirement beneficiaries. It is also common for an agreement to include provisions regarding the support—as in, how the support will be paid—of children from a previous relationship. A prenuptial agreement, however, cannot address the custody or support of the marrying couple’s children. These considerations may not be made until they are necessary, as custody and child support, by law, must be based upon the circumstances that exist at the time of the order.
According to various estimates, 90 percent or more of all divorce cases are settled by means of a negotiated agreement. This means the courts are responsible for deciding all the aspects of a divorce in less than one out of ten cases. Under Illinois law, a reasonable divorce agreement negotiated by the couple and presented for approval is binding upon the court, but only regarding issues of property and spousal maintenance. This means that as long the court does not find the agreement to be too unfair to one party, the agreement must be incorporated into the divorce judgment.
On the other hand, the law does not make an agreement regarding child custody or support binding upon the court. Instead, the court is expected to review the agreement carefully to be sure that rights of the child have not been compromised in any way. If the court deems the amount of negotiated support to be sufficient based on the provisions of the law, the agreement will be approved. If the court finds the terms or amount of support in the agreement to be insufficient, a revision may be ordered, or the court may enter its own custody or child support order.
If you have more in-depth questions regarding child support or your potential responsibilities, contact an experienced Illinois child support attorney in your area. A qualified legal professional can provide the answers you need and will assist you in protecting your child’s best interests. For assistance with estimating your child support payments, visit our Illinois Child Support Calculator.