Some single parents in Illinois may struggle to support their children on a single income and might not even have a formal child support agreement in place. According to a forthcoming paper, in 2014, only 49 percent of eligible parents had made a formal child support agreement with the other parent. In 2004, 60 percent of parents had a formal agreement. While the federal Child Support Enforcement Program is doing a better job in recent years of getting more money for more families in its system, it is serving a lower percentage of families.

For children, living in a single-parent household that does not receive child support has been linked to poorer outcomes that include behavioral and cognitive problems. More stress on the parent results in more difficulty for the child. Children who benefit from two incomes have better access to resources, and they also may be more likely to have a relationship with a parent who is paying child support than one who does not.

One reason some parents may fail to pay child support is because they are struggling financially themselves. However, this may point to the need for better support in assisting parents in finding work rather than giving up on child support altogether.

Child support is assessed using a formula with special considerations taken into account, such as whether the child has special needs. Parents who hesitate to put a formal agreement in place should keep in mind that doing so gives them many more tools for ensuring that child support is paid and that ultimately this is in the best interests of the child. A person who is unable to pay child support can petition to get the amount lowered. For example, the noncustodial parent might lose their job and take a new one in which their income is significantly lower.