For child support, what counts as income in Illinois?

A previous post here reviewed the formula that Illinois courts use to determine how much child support a parent who does not have custody of his or her children is expected to pay. Part of that post mentioned that sometimes parents can dispute what numbers go in to those formulas and, specifically, how much income each parent makes.

What constitutes "income" for child support purposes warrants a little further discussion. While figuring each parent's income might be straightforward enough if they both work one salaried job and do not bring in money from other sources, the reality is that many Lake County residents and others in the Chicago suburbs have income that varies or is hard to calculate, at least to some extent.

It is important to realize that the definition of income is broad when it comes to determining an Illinois child support order. Of course, it includes one's salary, but income can also include money from a person's trust or pension. Even things like disability checks, workers' compensation and unemployment or payments from a severance package count as income, as do capital gains.

As one might expect, what a person makes from rent or from one's own business also counts as income. Likewise, a person who works on tips or commission can expect those payments to count in the court's calculation. Even bonuses, overtime and gifts or financial help, provided it is reasonably reliable, count as income.

Not every dollar a person gets, however, will figure into the court's support calculation. Perhaps more importantly, it is sometimes quite difficult for a court to easily identify exactly how much a person makes from things like self-employment, commission or rents, especially since these types of income can be irregular. This helps explain why child support can indeed be a point of controversy between two parents.