Parents have a responsibility to support their children. Obtaining child support is important for many reasons, which is why the Child Support Enforcement Agency was created. Although this agency was established by the federal government, each state is required to have its own separate unit to administer a child support program.
In Ohio this unit is further divided up and administered by the local county Department of Job and Family Services, which in turn is overseen by the Ohio Office of Child Support located in the capitol of Columbus, Ohio. Your county CSEA can help find “absent” parents and their employers, establish paternity and enforce or establish a child support obligation. Any resident can apply to their county CSEA, no matter what their income level or whether or not they have a lawyer. If you do have an attorney, tell your local CSEA and keep them up-to-date on any actions you or your attorney file with the court.
If you're concerned that giving your information to the other parent could lead to violence, report this to the CSEA and request that your case to be marked with a "family violence indicator." The CSEA will tell you what type of documentation you need to provide to do this. When a case is marked with the family violence indicator, none of the child's or the adult's personal information is given to the other party. The CSEA will still work the case and obtain child support, while protecting the case participants' personal information.
Where Are You?
The CSEA is often used to help find the physical location of a non-custodial parent. The organization can also help discover where this parent is employed (if they have a job) as well as investigate other financial assets. Multiple state and federal sources are used to locate non-custodial parents, their financial resources and employment information. CSEA uses organizations that range from various state and federal bureaus to internet search engines and the post office.
The government has also established the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS), a partnership between federal, state and local agencies. This service can usually only be used by state agencies and courts that seek to regulate and enforce child support, visitation and custody. Individuals can't use the system directly, but can make requests through either their local CSEA or court.
And the Father is. . .
Paternity establishment determines that the named parent is the biological father of the child. This process is available at any time before the child reaches 23 years of age and can be determined even if the other parent lives in another state or even in a foreign country.
If a paternity case is contested or there are doubts about parentage, either party can request the CSEA conduct genetic testing. For a paternity order to be established, this test must show a 99% probability. Once paternity is established through DNA testing, CSEA will then schedule a hearing to establish a support order. A paternity test isn't just for child support, it can also make it easier for a child to find out about medical problems that may run in the family, build a relationship with the other parent and qualify as a dependent for the parent's disability, retirement, or veteran's benefits, or for an inheritance if the parent dies.
Establishing paternity for a child does not automatically give the father visitation rights. It is considered a separate matter and handled by the courts, not the CSEA. If either parent refuses to submit to genetic testing or to allow their child to do so, the CSEA can request for the court to find the that parent in contempt and determine the issue of paternity.
Once paternity is established, the CSEA notifies the parents of the date, time, and location of the child support establishment hearing and informs both parties what documents they need to bring with them to the hearing. These documents usually consist of tax returns, pay stubs and verification of health insurance coverage). Not all child support cases have to be administered by CSEA. The state of Ohio also allows parents to enter into a child support voluntarily or as ordered by the court without CSEA getting involved.
A child support order sets both the amount and type of support parents are required to provide for their child. It’s important to remember that child support is not just monetary, it also includes health coverage through private insurance from the parent or public assistance reimbursed in whole or part by the parent.
To determine the amount of support depends on the income and assets of both parents, as well as how many children they have. At the support establishment hearing, the administrative officer listens to any sworn testimony and completes the guidelines to determine the amount of child and medical support that the non-custodial parent will be ordered pay, as well as determine who will be ordered to provide health insurance coverage for the child. Most often the CSEA or the court will use the Ohio Child Support Guidelines to help determine the child support amount. Both parents must provide verification of their incomes for the past six months or provide their most recent income tax returns.
People commonly use the CSEA to enforce child support orders, collect back child support payments, or both. When a child support order is initiated or adjusted by the courts, CSEA can use several methods to enforce payments, the most common being income witholding. Most of the time, this can be done through the CSEA without anyone having to go to court. This income witholding method applies to almost all types of income including pensions, annuities, unemployment or workers comp payments, insurance payouts, lottery and gambling winnings and trust funds. A good rule to remember is that if it can be taxed, the CSEA usually considers it to be income.
Other enforcement methods that CSEA can use are:
- Professional, driving and/or sporting license suspension or restriction.
- A court order requiring an unemployed parent with no assets to seek work.
- The seizing of Ohio lottery or casino winnings.
- Witholding tax refunds.
- Liens on property.
- Credit reporting.
Child support can also be enforced by the use of criminal statutes. Usually, the CSEA has to take action through the courts by holding the non-paying parent in contempt. Contempt penalties can include jail, fines, house arrest or other remedies the court finds appropriate. A parent who resides in another state besides Ohio can be charged with a federal crime, since the criminal charge involves two states.
It’s up to the CSEA as to which enforcement method they use, which means the CSEA may not always do a specific enforcement action requested by you. Often times CSEA is still your best option, especially if you don’t have or can’t afford an attorney.
Every county has a local support agency to help you get, modify or collect child support. To find the local child support agency in your county, call 1-800-686-1556 or download the ODJFS County CSEA directory.
Need someone to help answer your difficult child custody and support questions? Contact Jack's Law Office at (740)369-7567.