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9 Factors in Child Support in Ohio: What You Need To Know

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A CNN Money article reported that as of 2009, over $100 billion was owed in unpaid child support payments. For lower-income mothers receiving child support, the child support payments accounted for almost one-half of their total income.

When payments are not made by the other parent, mothers have no choice but to seek public assistance for themselves and their children. The problem has continued to grow as more parents never marry, separate or divorce and the need for child support increases.

According to a recent article, An estimated $10 billion in child support payments going uncollected. A U.S. Census report estimates that just 43.5 percent of custodial parents get the full amount of support they're entitled to. And more than 30 percent don't receive anything at all.

Ohio has over 1 million children in the child support system and over $4.9 billion pending in overdue child support payments. The situation was so out of hand it prompted a major overhaul in 2019, the first since 1992. 

Today, almost one in four children are owed some type of child support payments and that number is expected to increase. Unfortunately, this is only one half of the story regarding child support. 

However, for many of the parents who are obligated to pay child support, they also live below the poverty level because they are struggling to meet their support obligations while paying their bills and living expenses. For both parents, child support obligations can often have devastating financial consequences.

Is There a Federal Law Regarding Child Support Enforcement?

Section 228, Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a federal crime to willfully fail to pay child support obligations under the following circumstances:

  • Failure to pay child support for a child residing in another state in an amount greater than $5,000 or for longer than one year;
  • Traveling to a foreign country or another state with the intent to avoid paying a child support obligation and the unpaid amount is over $5,000 or has been owed for more than one year; or,
  • Failure to pay child support for a child residing in another state in an amount greater than $10,000 or for longer than two years.

If you are found guilty of violating this federal statute, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on which subsection you are charged under and whether this is your first or subsequent offense. Punishment may include a fine, prison sentence, or both. In some cases, parties found guilty under this statute could face up to two years in prison.

According to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement, the agency collected $28 billion in unpaid child support in 2014 as opposed to less than $1billion when the program began in 1977. Most child support enforcement actions are handled by state agencies.

The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement has information regarding the state agencies and other advice and tips for parents who are dealing with child support issues.

How Do States Calculate Child Support?

Under the Child Support Enforcement Act, each state must develop guidelines for calculating and collecting child support.

The guidelines vary considerably by state but they are typically based in part on the parents’ income and expenses. In some states, judges have wide discretion when calculating child support.

However, other states have chosen to enact strict child support guidelines that calculate the support amount without much discretion left to the judges to change these amounts.

Some websites offer child support calculators for each state however it is dangerous for parents to assume these child support calculators are correct. The domestic support laws in each state are vastly different.

These support obligation calculators do not take into consideration the unique circumstances that may be present in a specific case that could justify a deviation from a “standard” calculation.

Parents should never rely on these calculators in place of receiving sound, competent legal advice from an Ohio family court attorney who has knowledge and experience in child support cases.

Factors used in most states to calculate child support include:

  • The number of children of the parties;
  • The needs of each child;
  • Daycare, health insurance, and other necessary expenses;
  • The ability of the parent to pay child support; and,
  • The standard of living of the child before the separation or divorce.

You must understand your rights about child support in Ohio regardless if you are receiving child support or paying child support. Below are common questions regarding child support in Ohio that may help clarify how our state legislators and courts view the financial obligations of parents for their children when the parents are not married to each other or do not live within the same household.

However, the answers to these questions do not replace sound legal advice from an experienced child support attorney. This is for informational purposes and we strongly encourage you to follow up with a consultation to discuss your Ohio child support case with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

Child Support in Ohio – The Basics

Which parent has to pay child support in Ohio?

Ohio views child support as an obligation where one parent makes a financial contribution to the other parent for the financial welfare of the child.

Courts may order child support to be paid in a variety of situations including when the parents never married, the dissolution of marriage, a paternity test reveals the father of the child, in annulment cases, or legal separation cases.

In most cases, the “non-residential” parent pays child support to the parent with whom the child resides or the parent with the greater income pays the parent with the lesser income in a shared parenting situation.

Child support can be established through the appropriate Child Support Enforcement Agency or a court action filed by either parent.

How do courts calculate Ohio child support amounts?

Ohio has statutory Child Support Guidelines that are used to calculate the amount of child support to be paid.

The statutory formula uses information about the parent’s income, the number of children to be supported, tax obligations, work-related child care, healthcare expenses, and other figures to calculate the statutory “guideline child support.”

n some cases, judges may deviate from the guidelines if the circumstances justify modifying the guideline child support amount. An experienced Ohio child support attorney can help you determine if your case meets the criteria to deviate from the statutory child support guidelines.

How does the court determine my income to calculate child support in Ohio?

Your actual earned income is used when calculating child support in Ohio. However, if you are not working because you voluntarily quit work or you are voluntarily underemployed, the judge may “impute” income to calculate child support.

In other words, the judge can use a figure that he believes you could and should be earning when determining child support. Factors that a judge may use when deciding how much income to impute to a parent include but are not limited to:

  1. Your education level;
  2. Your prior employment history;
  3. The wage and salary levels in your geographical area;
  4. Your mental and physical abilities;
  5. The age and special needs of a child;
  6. Any special skills or training you may have;
  7. The availability of employment in your area;
  8. How your experience and education may increase your earning capacity; and,
  9. Any other relevant factor the judge deems just and proper to consider.

How long do I have to pay child support?

ΩTypically, child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school (up until the age of 19) unless otherwise ordered by the court or agreed upon by the parent. However, there may be special circumstances for disabled children.

Parents can agree to extend child support through college and, if so, the judge can incorporate that into the child support order.

What if my circumstances change and I cannot pay my child support payments?

In some cases, you may qualify for a modification of child support if your circumstances warrant such modification. However, you cannot just stop paying your child support payments or reduce the amount of your child support payments without a court order.

If you do, you will violate a court order and subject to penalties by the court. If you are unable to pay your child support payments for any reason, you should immediately contact our office to discuss petitioning the court for an order modifying child support.

Can I stop paying child support payments if the kids come to live with me?

As your children grow up and life events cause changes in your circumstances, you and your ex-spouse may agree to allow the children to come live with you.

Even though you may not be the “residential” parent, unless you petition the court for an order modifying custody, the court will continue to enforce the original custody order, including the payment of child support. In other words, if you stop paying your child support payments, you will be violating a court order and subject to penalties by the court.

If your children come to live with you full time, you should retain an attorney to petition the court for a modification of the custody order, including modification of the child support obligation. Until then, you are legally required to continue paying the child support payments under the current order.

Therefore, act quickly to legally stop child support payments in this situation.

Can I deny visitation if my ex-spouse refuses to pay child support or is behind on child support payments?

No, you cannot deny visitation based on unpaid child support. The financial obligation to support your child is a separate issue from custody and visitation.

If you deny visitation for any reason, you are in contempt of court and could face penalties just as your ex-spouse would be in contempt of court if he or she refuses to pay court-ordered child support payments.

How do you modify child support orders in Ohio?

If you have a change of circumstances (i.e. you become seriously ill and unable to work, you lose your job, there is a birth of a new child, etc.), you may qualify to have your child support obligation modified.

However, you must contact the Child Support Enforcement Agency in your county or a qualified family law attorney to discuss whether your circumstances qualify for a modification of child support. In most cases, it is best to discuss the situation with a qualified attorney who has experience handling this type of situation.

Who pays for the health insurance and medical expense for the child?

Health insurance and medical expenses are handled differently depending on the parties’ situation and the needs of the child. In most cases, the court will order one or both parents to carry health insurance for the child. Any medical expenses that are not covered by health insurance are typically split between the parents; however, the percentage does not necessarily need to be even.

What should I do if I cannot pay my child support payments?

Contact our office immediately! If you do not pay your child support payments, you are in contempt of court and could face jail time if you continue to miss your payments.

You and your attorney can discuss ways to modify your child support payments to allow you to get back on your feet and in a position to continue the financial support of your child without penalties or going to jail.

What should I do if my ex-spouse is not paying the child support payments?

Do not deny visitation based on your ex-spouse not paying his or her child support obligations. Contact our office to discuss filing a contempt action to collect the unpaid child support arrearage.

You may also contact the appropriate state child enforcement agency; however, this could result in a substantial delay due to the number of cases that each state agency processes each year.

Do I Need an Ohio Child Support Attorney?

es! If you are dealing with issues related to child support in Ohio, you need legal advice from an experienced, reputable, and compassionate family law attorney. The child support guidelines can work in your favor when calculating child support.

However, they can also work against you. An experienced family court attorney understands the Ohio Child Support Guidelines and he knows how to present testimony and evidence, when applicable, that convinces the judge to deviate from those guidelines.

An Ohio child support attorney can help you with many issues regarding child support in Ohio including:

  • Assistance understanding and dealing with issues related to the Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA)
  • Obtaining accurate information for the child support guideline worksheets and choosing the correct worksheet
  • Requesting a modification or review due to unemployment
  • Obtaining a deviation of the child support guidelines for cause
  • Understanding Ohio cash medical support
  • Petitioning for a Post-decree Child Support Modification Order
  • Understanding how a parenting plan will affect child support calculation
  • Understanding what should be included in the income
  • Challenging “imputed income” issues
  • Reviewing child support agreements to ensure they are fair
  • Paternity lawsuits
  • Enforcement issues

Finding the Right Ohio Child Support Attorney

Regardless of whether you and the other parent of your child live together in the same house, you are both financially responsible for your child. Determining the correct amount of child support in Ohio often requires that the finances of both parents be closely evaluated.

To ensure that you are paying or receiving the proper amount of child support, you need an attorney who understands Ohio child support laws and who is familiar with the complex rules regarding statutory child support guidelines. Having the right attorney represent you about your Ohio child support claim is in your best interest and your child’s best interest. 

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