Welfare Benefits: How Do They Affect Child Support Payments?

When a couple decides to dissolve their marriage and the couple had a child or children during the marriage, child support is often awarded to the custodial parent after the divorce. Although a divorcing couple can decide on their own the terms of the child support payments, the courts will generally get involved in determining what is the proper payment award each month.

According to the Illinois Statutory Guidelines 750 ILCS 5/505 Section 505, the amount of child support a court will order is calculated based upon the number of children for which he or she is responsible and the supporting party’s (non-custodial parent’s) net income:

Number of ChildrenPercent of Supporting Party’s Net Income
6 or more50

The court generally adheres to this chart to determine the amount ordered. However, in certain cases a court will look at other factors that are not part of this formula. If by doing so, it would serve the best interests of the child.

Deviations from the child support formula are based on several factors. The court will look at the financial means and requirements of the child, the custodial parent, and the non-custodial parent. The court will also look at what the standard of living of the child or children would have been if the parents stayed together as a family unit. Finally, the court will look at the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child.

Net Income

Net income is the total income a parent makes from all of his or her available income sources. When the court is determining what the net income is it also has to take into consideration deductions that must be made from the net income. Deductions can be in the form of income tax (both federal and state), social security or retirement benefits, union fees, health insurance premiums or medical expenses, prior child support or alimony obligations, or other debts or expenses related to the child.

Welfare and its Effect on Child Support Payments

One of the deductions that reduce the amount of child support payments that are paid out each month is the amount the custodial parent receives in welfare payments.

In Illinois, the state gives no more than $50 of a non-custodial parent’s monthly child support payment to a custodial parent who is receiving welfare benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). This amount does not change based on the number of children or the number of people paying child support to the custodial parent. The rest of the non-custodial parent’s payment goes to the state to pay back what it has paid out in public aid.

This current formula penalizes both the custodial and non-custodial parent and, as a result, directly and indirectly affects the well-being of the child. First, it discourages the non-custodial parent from paying the child support payments each month (which are often taken out in wage garnishments or other income reductions). This is demoralizing to the non-custodial parent because he or she knows that a huge chunk of the money is not actually going to benefit the child but instead goes to pay back the government.

Second, it penalizes the custodial parent, who by virtue of being on welfare, is already in a poor economic position. Third, it negatively affects the child because the less money the custodial parent receives, the less money that can be spent on the basic needs of the child each month. Many advocates are working to change these requirements to better balance the goals of the welfare system with the best interests of the child in awarding child support payments.


If you have any family law questions, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney today. Our Wheaton professionals can help you understand your financial rights regarding your child support obligations.