Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How To: Child Support in Illinois

I noticed that a lot of people get here by searching for how the government in Illinois is holding my child support. Whether it's your child support being held by the state because of their error, or by some other government agency because you haven't paid, hopefully I can clarify these posts about my struggle to get the system to work. No one should ever have to go through what I did to get their child support. When two government offices can't work together, don't communicate with each other and ignore their client (the parent) that's when you know the system is broken. Hopefully it's improved since I went through this!

First, the website for child support services in Illinois is here:

The phone numbers and websites for applying and asking questions are located there. The problem is that you sit on hold for hours if you have a problem that the automated system doesn't answer. I easily sat on hold for 1.5 hours waiting for someone to pick up. How can someone, who works outside the home, tie up their phone line for this long? They can't. Either they don't have access to a private phone line or they can't just have their phone off the hook on hold that long. I know when I worked in an office, I had meetings to go to and other inbound and outbound calls that couldn't wait. So what is the child support office doing to fix this? They don't have hours outside of business hours so that people can call after work or on weekends. Most single parents can't just take the day off for phone calls.

Once you get through, assuming you can wait that long or make it through the automated system without getting hung up on, you want to ensure you're speaking to someone who understands your needs and how to get things done. Go to your local child support office if you don't already have a child support order in place! You'll get an appointment to discuss your options and it sets the process in motion to get child support payments started. Whether your the custodial parent or not, visitation and child support are not mutually exclusive in IL. Your children's non-custodial parent has the right to see their child whether they've paid child support or not -- barring other legal issues of which you'd need to bring to a courtroom setting.

If you're in a situation like I was, where the state didn't communicate with the federal government agency, make sure you ask for a supervisor! They'll claim it'll restart your whole appeal process, but if you're not getting paid your support and they can't tell you what the problem is even though they claim to have sent the notice -- talk to a supervisor. Insist on it! Sit on hold for hours if you have to because otherwise they won't do a thing but let it sit on their desk and keep putting you off rather than fix the problem. Things like calling a government office when it clearly states they don't take calls on Wednesday. Saying they sent the orders electronically, but actually they didn't and had no idea what the difference between mailing and electronically meant.

Try to use the system as best you can to make it work for you, but don't give up when it fails. Stay on top of errors, call when they make a mistake and follow up repeatedly if it's not resolved. If they're not sending you the payments or withholding correctly, get it fixed whether you get or give the payments. Eventually it'll catch up to you if you don't.

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