An Overview of the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015

Margaret Bennett, now the Chair of the Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee, was a major contributor of change in the Illinois Parentage Act in 2015, the first amendment to the Illinois parentage laws in over 30 years. The new act which went into effect January 1, 2016, was a complete rewrite of the Illinois parentage laws that reflect changes in cultural norms and reproductive technology.  Below is her article in the Illinois Bar Journal stating the much needed changes for Illinois residents.   illinois-bar-journal-ipa-2015  

Reprinted with permission of the Illinois Bar Journal, Vol. 103 #12, December 2015. Copyright by the Illinois State Bar Association.

Presenting the Parentage Act of 2015 Effective January 1, 2016

On October 1, 2015, Margaret A. Bennett was a speaker at the James R. Thompson Center Auditorium in Chicago, Illinois, regarding the new Parentage Act of 2015 which will be in effect beginning January 1, 2016.

You can see the video of Ms. Bennett’s presentation and read the summary or the full Parentage Act here: Navigating the New IMDMA & Parentage Act

Attorney Margaret A. Bennett Co-Author’s Article with Honorable Pamela E. Loza for Illinois State Bar Association January 2015 Newsletter

We are proud to announce Attorney Margaret A. Bennett has co-authored an article with the Honorable Pamela E. Loza in the January 2015 newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association‘s Section on Family Law. January 2015, vol. 58, no. 7 The legal and ethical conundrum of child support in multi-partnered families By Hon. Pamela E. Loza and Margaret A. Bennett

Every state utilizes guidelines to uniformly calculate child support obligations for multi-partnered families. Child support obligations are a reality in that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; two-thirds of women and three-fourths of men remarry; and many start second families.[1] Further, more and more children each year are born to unmarried women. According to Illinois Department of Public Health statistics, the percentage of all children born in Illinois to unmarried women increased from 25 percent in 1984 to 41 percent in 2010.[2] That percentage increases to 50 percent for women with less than a post-secondary education, and to almost 80 percent for African-American women residing in Chicago.

Data from Wisconsin-based Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cases illuminates the complexity of multi-partnered families.[3] On average, more than half of all mothers with a three-year association with TANF had children with two or more fathers. In nine percent of these situations, the fathers also had children with other women.[4] Further, when women had children with just one man, he was the father of children with at least one other woman 16 percent of the time.[5] Applying guidelines to calculate child support obligations in these scenarios presents complex challenges. To accomplish this daunting task, states generally employ one of three basic methods including the Melson formula, the percentage of income model, and the income shares model.

Melson Formula – Utilized in Delaware, Hawaii, and Montana, this formula reflects public policy considerations of a parent’s personal minimal support needs that should be met before he or she can support the needs of others.[6] However, public policy also recognizes that additional enhancement of a parent’s financial circumstance is impermissible until the parents jointly meet their child’s primary support needs. Finally, the child’s standard of living should adjust in proportion to the parents’ improved standard of living.

Once a parent’s minimal support allowance and the child’s standard of living is established, each parent is assigned a prorated share of the child’s subsistence standard based on the total share of the parent’s income.[7] A percentage of any additional income is then utilized to improve the child’s standard of living. Proponents of the Melson formula argue that although it appears complex relative to other models, it is the fairest and most internally consistent of the three. The formula minimizes differences between low and high income earning parents, addresses special custody relationships, and contemplates the needs of children and their parents.[8]

Percentage of Income Model- Illinois and nine other states including New York, Texas, and Wisconsin utilize the percentage of income model to calculate child support obligations.[9] The IMDMA, 750 ILCS 5/505 provides that “[t]he duty of support owed to a child includes the obligation to provide for the physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.”[10] While all jurisdictions require Financial Affidavits from both parties, only the noncustodial obligor’s income is considered when calculating support obligations in the vast majority of cases. A percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income is calculated to determine the minimum amount of support owed per child. For example, the noncustodial parent owes 20% of his or her net income to support one child, and 28% for two children. When making a child support calculation for parents with multiple children from multiple partners in Illinois, the guidelines provide that a paid child support obligation arising out of an existing court order is deducted from the parent’s gross income before applying the percentage for child support.

The result of this formula is an uneven payment of child support such that the oldest child receives more than his or her younger sibling from a different partner. The Illinois legislature traditionally considered the first in time, first in right approach fair because the oldest child should not receive less support due to the non-custodial parent’s actions. However, this theory is fatally flawed because it benefits older children to the detriment of their younger siblings. The progressive New Jersey process creates the most equitable results for multi-partnered families. In New Jersey, the guidelines vest the court with the authority to review and adjust all support orders in a consolidated proceeding by averaging the orders or fashioning some other resolution that treats all supported children fairly.[11]

Admittedly, at least in Cook County, the ability to authorize consolidation and review of multiple family situations could have far reaching and dire effects on an already overwhelmed court system. This could lead to costly and time-consuming litigation. However, the first in time, first in right approach is archaic and unjust. New legislation promulgated by the ISBA Family Law Section Council seeks to address these concerns by utilizing an income shares model to calculate child support obligations rather than the archaic percentage of income model.

Income Shares Model- Forty states, as well as, Washington D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands, utilize the income shares model to calculate child support obligations.[12] This approach is based on economic analysis showing that the proportion of a parent’s income devoted to children in intact families declines as income increases. A lesser percentage of income is spent on necessities such as food, lodging, medical and education. Application of this rule should result in the noncustodial parent paying approximately what the parent would have paid if the family had remained intact.

Unlike the percentage of income model, the income shares model requires income information from both parents. Each parent’s net income is determined based upon gross income minus either the standardized or individualized tax amount. Parents then are responsible for their prorated share of child support thereby creating a more comprehensive, fair, and flexible process of determining child support obligations as compared to the one size fits all percentage of income guidelines. The court may issue minimum support orders to parents living below the poverty line, and individualized income guidelines may be utilized to determine a child’s physical care needs when one or both parents have prior child support obligations to other children. Movement to the income shares model is a step in the right direction for Illinois but does it go far enough? One possible solution would be to give the court greater authority and discretion to review and adjust child support orders on a case-by-case basis in the best interests of all children.  


[2] See ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH (last visited November 5, 2014), <>.


[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] See Child Support Guideline Models by State, NCSL: NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES, <> (last updated April 2013).

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] 750 ILCS 5/505.


[12] See Child Support Guideline Models by State, NCSL: NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES, <> (last updated April 2013).

Free Financial, Legal, and Empowerment Seminar!

On Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Margaret A. Bennett will be an event panelist at the Wintrust Financial Center located at 9700 W. Higgins Road, 2nd Floor, Rosemont, Illinois. Ms. Bennett will be one of seven presenters focusing on financial, legal, and empowerment for separated, divorced, or widowed women. The seminar will have two sessions as follows:

  • Day Session: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (includes lunch)
  • Evening Session: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (includes dinner)

The seminar consists of seven presenters from all different fields and includes:

This seminar will help women:

  • Gain strategies on how to become financially independent;
  • Learn insights about family and divorce law;
  • Grasp important aspects of estate planning, wills and trusts;
  • Get educated on pertinent accounting/tax information;
  • Learn how to embrace and accept change;
  • Understand the emotional issues of grief, loss, and recovery;
  • Receive an update on the housing market and mortgage criteria; and
  • Share with a network of women in similar situations.

Please go to or call Wendy Schenker at (847) 939-9654 by January 28, 2015, to reserve your spot today. February 4, 2015, Women in Transition Event Brochure  

Margaret A. Bennett Named to 2015 Illinois Super Lawyers List

Bennett Law Firm, LLC is proud to announce for the fourth year in a row Margaret A. Bennett has been recognized as an Illinois Super Lawyer. Only 5% of attorneys in the State of Illinois are selected to the Super Lawyers list. Ms. Bennett has also been named to the 2015 list of Top 100 Super Lawyers in Illinois and 2015 list of Top 50 Women Super Lawyers in Illinois.

Congratulations to Ms. Bennett on her outstanding dedication and excellent work in the area of Family Law and Divorce!

Dramatic Changes with New Spousal Maintenance Guidelines: House Bill 1452

Beginning January 1, 2015, a new spousal maintenance statute, Public Act 98-961, will become effective for divorcing couples with a combined gross income of $250,000 or less. The new spousal maintenance legislation contains guidelines for the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. These guidelines are based on each party’s gross income and the length of the marriage.

Prior to the court implementing the spousal maintenance guidelines, the court must first consider if a maintenance award is appropriate by considering various factors listed in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”), including but not limited to, “the income and property of each party, then needs of each party, the present and future earning capacity of each party…the standard of living established during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of both parties…”. Determining the Amount of Maintenance under the New Guidelines

Once the court has decided that a party is entitled to spousal maintenance, the court will then apply the new spousal maintenance guidelines outlined in Pub. Act 98-961 which set forth a simple formula to determine the appropriate amount of maintenance. The amount of spousal maintenance is determined by “taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income”. The total maintenance award shall not exceed 40% of the parties’ combined gross yearly incomes. Determining the Duration of Maintenance under the New Guidelines

When determining the duration of spousal maintenance under the new guidelines, the length of the marriage is paramount, with sizeable increases in the duration of maintenance occurring for marriages lasting more than 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. The new statute determines the duration of spousal maintenance by multiplying the length of the marriage as follows:

Length of Marriage              Multiplier

0 – 5 years                               .20

5 – 10 years                             .40

10 – 15 years                           .60

15 – 20 years                           .80

For marriages lasting 20 years or more, the new guidelines in Pub. Act 98-961 recommend “permanent maintenance, or maintenance equal to the duration of the marriage”.

As stated in the Illinois Bar Journal Vol. 103, No. 1, entitled The New Illinois Spousal Maintenance Law: Retroactive or Prospective, it is important to note that judges are not required to use this formula in determining the amount of a maintenance award; however, if the judge does not use the formula, he or she “must make a finding explaining” his or her refusal.

A major concern for family law attorneys is whether or not Pub. Act 98-961 will be applied retroactively. While Pub. Act 98-961 applies to all maintenance awards entered after January 1, 2015, it is unclear what effect it will have on maintenance that was awarded prior to its enactment, specifically its effect on maintenance modification orders entered with the court after January 1, 2015.

The new maintenance guidelines promise to significantly impact the way spousal maintenance awards are negotiated and litigated. Keep in mind that Illinois laws are constantly changing. For example, House Bill 1452 will be reintroduced to the House of Representatives in January 2015. House Bill 1452 is already considered a major revision to the current IMDMA with its significant changes to the 38-year-old law. Contact Bennett Law Firm, LLC today to set up a consultation and see how House Bill 1452 can have an effect on your divorce.  

Forbes Article: Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

As Seen in Forbes Magazine, Chicago Women Business Leaders Edition, June 10, 2013 Legal Solutions to Complex Matrimonial Disputes

When an affluent couple was going through a divorce, the wife was in the dark regarding the value of the marital estate. Her husband, a savvy business executive, had always managed their finances. The woman turned to the Oak Brook, Illinois based Bennett Law Firm for help.

“The husband was deceptive about how much money he had,” says Margaret Bennett, founding partner. “Our investigation uncovered $225,000 in hidden assets. The wife had no knowledge of what properties she and her husband owned.”

Divorce is never easy, particularly when children, large sums of money, personal property or family-owned businesses are at stake. The right legal representation is critical to understanding complex financial circumstances and resolving difficult cases efficiently. One of the leading boutique matrimonial law firms in the Chicagoland area, the Bennett Law Firm leaves no stone unturned when helping clients put the past behind them and move on with their lives.

“We understand business valuation, tax law, complicated marital estates and other financial issues,” Bennett says.

While vigorously representing clients’ interests, the Bennett Law Firm is also sensitive to the needs of children who are affected by their parents’ divorce. Bennett is a frequent lecturer on the subject of child support, and serves on the state’s Child Support Advisory Committee and the Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section Council. She is helping to draft child-focused legislation that attempts to reduce parental conflict for families in transition. Bennett’s passion is to help legislators improve Illinois laws pertaining to families and children in crisis.

Bennett has been named by Chicago Magazine as one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys and Top 100 Attorneys in Illinois. Experienced and respected, she is both a skilled negotiator and a tough-as-nails litigator, always seeking the best possible outcome in one of the most difficult challenges anyone can face. Specially trained in the collaborative law process in family law matters, Bennett helps clients avoid litigation when possible.

“One of the hardest things anyone can go through is when their spouse leaves them with an uncertain financial future,” she says. “I like being able to help clients walk out of court with a smile on their face, knowing they are going to have a secure financial future.”

Women In Transition Event 2014

On October 1, 2014, Margaret A. Bennett was a speaker at the Wintrust Financial Center in Rosemont, Illinois, for the Women in Transition Seminar. Over 150 women attended the event which was directed toward separated, divorced or widowed women to gain financial, legal, and empowerment advice. The seminar consisted of speakers from all different fields and included: Margaret A. Bennett, Attorney, Bennett Law Firm, LLC; Kimberly S. Coogan, Estate Planning, Bellock & Coogan, LTD.; Renée Cooper, Financial Consultant, Wintrust Wealth Management; Linda C. Kanter, BSC, MA, EA, President, Kanter Tax & Trust Consulting, Inc.; Linda Lucatorto, Divorce Coach & Mediator, The Oasis Experience, Inc.; Susan Seeberg, Senior Loan Officer, Wintrust Mortgage; and Colleen C. Wilcox, Residential Broker, Coldwell Banker.
Margaret Bennett and Emily Hansen
Margaret A. Bennett and Emily A. Hansen
Margaret Bennett and Emily Hansen
Margaret A. Bennett and Emily A. Hansen
Margaret Bennett and Emily Hansen
Margaret A. Bennett and Emily A. Hansen

Congratulations to Margaret Bennett!

We are excited to announce that Margaret A. Bennett has been reappointed to serve as a member on the 2014-2015 Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Section Council and Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on Judicial Evaluations. Margaret Bennett has been concentrating in the areas of family law and divorce litigation for over 25 years and practices in DuPage, Cook, Kane, and Will Counties. Ms. Bennett serves as a Family Court Mediator and as a Guardian ad Litem for the DuPage County court system. Some of her most recent achievements and appointments include:
  • Illinois Super Lawyers 2012 – 2014
  • Super Lawyers Top 50 Women Attorneys in Illinois 2013 – 2014
  • 10.0 rating by
  • Voted by Martindale-Hubbell as a Preeminent Lawyer, Margaret Bennett has maintained an AV rating since 1998 and has received the highest peer award honor that is only bestowed upon those lawyers who have the highest level of legal ability and adherence to the professional standards of conduct, ethics, reliability and diligence
  • Top 50: 2013 Women Illinois Super Lawyers
  • Appointment to the State of Illinois Child Support Advisory Committee (2010 to present)
  • Appointment to the Family Law Study Committee by the Illinois House of Representatives (2008 to present)
  • International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Member (2006 to 2010, 2012 to present)
  • Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, Fellow (2006 to 2010, 2012 to present)
  • Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, Fellow (2006 to 2010, 2012 to present)
Congratulations to Margaret on a job well done and many more years to come of achieving the highest standards in Family law!