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.
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 630-416-7004 to schedule your free consultation.