Join me and Assistant States Attorney Jen Steffen as we discuss how the State of Illinois can help you get child support! It is a free service, where the custodial parent can use the state government to compel the other parent to pay!
There is a free program to assist custodial parents with obtaining, enforcing and/or modifying child support through the State of Illinois and the Lake County State’s Attorney. Lawyer Jen Steffen is with the Child Support Division of the Lake County State’s Attorney. She is an expert in assisting parents with child support issues.
Steffen, a Schaumburg, Illinois native, wanted to be a lawyer since the age of eight. She was influenced in her career choice by reading the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” and participating in a mock trial in high school. Steffen attended law school in Ohio but returned to Illinois, first working at the Lake County Public Defender’s Office for a few years, followed by her present position with the Office of the Lake County State’s Attorney. She has worked in a variety of divisions of the State’s Attorney’s Office including Traffic and Misdemeanors, Domestic Violence, Felony Review and Juvenile. Steffen is presently working in the Child Support Division.
Child Support and the IDHFS (Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services)
Though private attorneys can and do handle child support issues, the government can intervene and render assistance in many child support cases. There are designations of mandatory and non-mandatory cases of child support. A mandatory case is one in which the State of Illinois, through the IDHFS and the States Attorney, can pursue child support enforcement for custodial parents who are receiving public benefits such as TANF. However, even in cases where parents are not receiving any public benefits but cannot afford to hire a private attorney to handle a child support issue, (termed non-mandatory) the IDHFS and the States Attorney can lend a hand in obtaining or enforcing child support. The State has an interest in the welfare and the support of the children of Illinois.
The Process of Obtaining, Enforcing and/or Modifying Child Support
Child support enforcement starts with the IDHFS. A parent seeking support can start the process online or with a phone call (800-447-4278), but the fastest way to get started is to visit the IDHFS’ office at 227 Genesee Street in Waukegan, Illinois. The IDHFS will open a file and request information needed such as birth certificates and marriage certificates (if applicable). Once the IDFHS processes the file and creates a petition (up to 6 months), the file is transferred to the State’s Attorney. It should also be noted that sometimes cases can be resolved administratively through the IDFHS.
Once a file is transferred to the State’s Attorney, the file is reviewed and a summons is issued for a hearing date for the parties regarding an order of support, usually within 30 days of the receipt of the file. Establishment of paternity is key to obtaining an order of support; this can be accomplished by a marriage certificate (though it is a rebuttable presumption of paternity), a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity or a DNA test. Evidence of income of the parties is another important part of the hearing process. Though the State’s Attorney deals with child support (money and medical insurance), there is also a Court mediation program available to deal with child visitation issues.
Along with establishing an order of support, the Child Support Division can assist with a modification of support. At times, an order of support needs to be adjusted upward or downward, depending on an increase or decrease of income due to a job promotion or job loss. Additionally, the State’s Attorney handles enforcement of support orders that are not being paid. In such cases, the State’s Attorney can prepare a Rule to Show Cause which is a petition served with a summons that requires the offending party to come to court and explain why no support has been paid. Failure to pay support can result in civil contempt and the possibility of jail time for the offending party.
Steffen recommends that Lake County parents seeking assistance with child support issues start the process by contacting the IDHFS. Additionally, she stated it is best to begin the process sooner rather than later for the benefit of their children.