How Child Support Impacts Welfare Benefits


Collection of governmental welfare affects the amount of money that a custodial parent can receive as child support. It is important to understand, first, how child support payments are calculated through the judicial system after the couple separates. In order to determine child support payments, Illinois uses an Income Shares model, which considers the net income of each parent and from where they receive that income. Net income does not include welfare payments (TANF, SNAP, and SSI). Once the income of each parent is considered, a basic obligation is created and supplemented with added on child expenses[1], like after school care, extracurricular activities, health care premiums, etc.

Once child support has been determined, the payment is usually taken out from the parent’s paycheck and sent from his/her employer to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU). SDU, then, sends the child support payment to the receiving parent, keeping a detailed receipt of the transaction[2].

In Illinois, if a couple is required to exchange child support but is also reliant upon welfare benefits, the couple is considered to be under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, or an IV-D family, a reference to the applicable Social Security Act section. Welfare benefits differ state by state, but in Illinois, benefits generally include TANF, SNAP, SSI, and other public housing supports.

If a parent is seemingly entitled to receive both welfare and child support benefits, they will not receive both. A parent is allowed to collect their welfare benefits, as well as a pass-through payment taking the place of child support. The pass-through payment is $100 per month or the full amount of child support if it is less than $100. Pass-through payments are permitted to go up to $200 for multiple kids, but can not exceed that the $200 threshold in any given case. The paying parent is still required to pay the full child support obligation to the SDU, who will keep the full amount of money, other than the $100 pass-through payment being made[3]. This allows the state to recollect some of the money that it had previously spent on the children and family in question. In order to deter payers from failing on their obligations, the state and the SDU are allowed to revoke drivers’ licenses and passports[4].

If child support is being paid in full and exceeds the amount of money that the custodial parent receives in welfare plus the pass-through payment in a month, the custodial parent will be sent the difference of money up to the ordered child support obligation. This is known as “Current excess child support.” There is also something known as “Past excess child support” which is very similar to current excess child support, but takes total child support payments into account instead of the month[5].

Because federal law requires publically assisted families to comply with child support regulations, if a parent is receiving welfare and no child support, the state will make an attempt to collect child support on the custodial parent’s behalf. Because the state requires parents to support their own children, the government is allowed to pursue parents not doing so. The state can do so in numerous ways by working with local child support agencies and collecting garnishments from the non-custodial parent’s wages[6].


[1] Illinois Legal Aid Online, calculating child support payments,

[2] Illinois Legal Aid Online, how child support is paid,

[3] Illinois Legal Aid Online, getting public assistance and child support at the same time,

[4] Illinois Department of Health and Family Services,

[5] Illinois Department of Health and Family Services, Child support services program,

[6] National Conference of State Legislatures, Child support pass-through and disregard policies for public assistance recipients,

*This post was written by Eden Posner, Northwestern Class of 2019

For a free consultation, call Stern Perkoski Mendez at (847) 868-9584 or contact us.