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UPDATE: Do I Have to Pay Interest on Unpaid Child Support in Illinois?

Posted on in Child Support

Plainfield Child Support AttorneyOriginally published: May 11, 2020 -- Updated: August 25, 2021

UPDATE: Parents who have experienced financial issues that have affected their ability to pay child support will want to take the correct steps to avoid the issues described below. This has been a major concern for many parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who have lost their jobs or who have experienced health issues that have affected the income they are able to earn will want to make sure they take the proper measures to avoid penalties for failing to meet their financial obligations.

Family courts will often recognize financial hardship experienced by parents, but unless a parent takes action to inform the court of these issues, they will be required to follow the terms of their child support order. This means they must continue making monthly payments, and in addition to making up any missed payments, they may also be required to pay interest on these past-due amounts. To avoid these issues, a parent can file a petition for a modification of their child support obligations as soon as they have experienced financial issues that affect their ability to pay. While the court may not immediately grant a request for modification, any modifications that are made may be retroactive to the date the modification request was filed. 

If you find that you are unable to meet your child support obligations, you can work with a family law attorney to file a modification request. At the Law Office of Ronald L. Hendrix, P.C., we can help you determine your best options for addressing these issues. We can also provide representation for child support recipients in cases where the other parent has not met their obligations. To set up a free consultation with a Naperville child support modification lawyer, contact us at 630-355-7776.

Child support is considered a legal obligation. This type of financial support is used for a minor child’s basic needs, such as food and clothing. In some cases, it may also go toward housing, transportation, activities, and medical costs. When an Illinois court order requires a parent to pay child support, that order becomes an enforceable judgment in their divorce or child custody case. Like any civil judgment, failure to pay can lead to consequences, including an assessment of interest. According to the Appeals Court, interest is calculated based on when the parent stopped paying, not when the judge calculates how much money is owed. 

Calculating Interest 

A recent decision from the Illinois First District Appellate Court, In Re Marriage of Gloria Westlund, helps to illustrate how interest on unpaid child support works in this state. This case involved a couple that obtained a divorce in 2009. At the time, the parties had one minor child. The final divorce awarded the parents joint custody but named the mother as the custodial parent. The order also required the father, as the non-custodial parent, to pay child support.

Approximately four years later, in May 2014, the father filed a petition with the court asking a judge to hold the mother in contempt. The father alleged the mother was not honoring his visitation rights with their child. The mother responded by demanding access to the father's financial records and asking for an increase in child support. During the litigation that followed, the mother further alleged the father also failed to pay his existing child support obligations.

In February 2016, a judge determined the father had, in fact, failed to pay $5,701.28 in back child support. The judge later assessed interest on this amount, starting with the date of the February 2016 judgment. The mother argued this calculation was incorrect and filed an appeal. It turned out the mother was right. The First District explained that Illinois law imposes 9 percent interest on any child support obligation “which becomes due and remains unpaid as of the end of each month.” In other words, interest accrues starting 30 days after a parent fails to make a monthly support payment. Since each monthly support payment is considered a separate “judgment,” the court must calculate interest separately for every missed payment.

In this case, the trial court calculated interest based on the date it first calculated the total amount of unpaid child support, which was February 2016. What the judge should have done, the appeals court said, was to calculate the interest for each missed payment “beginning 30 days from the due date of the first unpaid” installment, which was all the way back in 2009.

Contact a DuPage County Child Support Lawyer 

Interest is just one potential consequence of failing to pay child support obligations on time. If a parent “willfully” fails to pay support for more than six months, or owes more than $5,000 in arrears, he or she can be charged with a criminal offense. Additionally, the State of Illinois can revoke the non-paying parent’s driving privileges, as well as any professional licenses he or she may possess. If you are involved in a legal dispute involving child support payments and need legal advice from a qualified Naperville family law attorney, contact the Law Office of Ronald L. Hendrix, P.C. today at 630-355-7776 to schedule your free consultation.


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