Written by: Kenya N. Rahmaan
Ohio is the first state in the country to pass legislation to change the laws of the child support system, along with the welfare system, enacted under Former President Bill Clinton over two decades ago. This may surprise some, however, it doesn’t surprise those aware that Ohio was the pilot state to implement the child support system to its low-income welfare recipients in the late 1990s. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (2017), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients must assign their rights to child support payments to the state. During the implementation, TANF recipients who were custodial parents (mostly mothers), were mandated to sign up for child support or risk losing their public benefits.
States have the option of allowing some of the child support payment to be passed-through to the parent and child, (NCSL, 2017). In Ohio, during the initial rollout, signing up for child support meant an extra $50 added to the monthly welfare checks. What parents didn’t know is that they were signing up to sue the non-custodial parent for child support. Currently, the pass-through amount, or the portion of child support paid to TANF families, varies from state to state.
Currently, 28 states including Ohio pay $0 since the government refuses to pay any portion of the child support payment received on behalf of TANF families to the families receiving public benefits. This is due to the child support system being a welfare recovery program. However, the reasons for this requires a more detailed explanation than what is intended in this article. Find out more about child support being a welfare recovery program by visiting: http://thechildsupporthustle.com/child-support-is-a-welfare-recovery-program/.
The pass-through regulation was not mentioned in the bill that was recently passed in Ohio, although, considering that Ohio children could have benefited from every penny of their child support money (as is the case with every child around the nation) it most certainly should have been included. According to Jim Siegel of The Columbus Dispatch (2018), House Bill 366:
- Updates tables used to calculate payments,
- Creates a standard deduction when a parent has multiple orders,
- Caps the allowable credit for shared childcare expenses at the statewide average and,
- Better takes into account time that the child spends with the non-custodial parent.
It is critical that, as the country begins to embrace the inevitability of child support reform, that we understand exactly what reformations the state that piloted the child support system plans on implementing all these years later. Based on history, the other states will follow suit.
To begin, the updates to the tables used to calculate payments could mean that parents could possibly pay less support. The reasoning behind these possible decreased payments as explained by the staff at WTOL of Toledo, Ohio (2018) is that the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) is rewriting the starting point for payments. Ohio is offering a reduction in payments so that low-income and poor parents have money left over to cover basic needs after making child support payments. Currently, too many parents are left with next to nothing (if anything) to meet their basic living expenses after child support deductions and garnishments. According to The Ohio Bar Association or the OSBA (2016), under the previous law, the total of this adjusted gross income (combined mother and father’s income minus certain allowable deductions from their gross income) of both parents is then applied to a chart, which identifies the amount of support required to raise children in their parents’ income category.
The way that child support is calculated today in Ohio and in every other state is that the non-custodial parent pays child support. The order amount should be based on his/her income, which is not always the case, especially in situations of default judgments. Default judgment occur when the defendant fails to appear to the child support hearing, the case is still established, and the income is estimated or imputed based on employment demographics (and other criteria) specific to that area. As it stands, even if the non-custodial parent earns significantly less money than the custodial parent, he/she would still be required to pay child support.
For example, if a father earns $10,000 annually and the mother earns $30,000 (with no deductions for either parent), the father or the non-custodial parent, would still be required to pay $139.34 monthly or $1,639.33 annually in child support. This amount is based on health insurance being provided and a 2% processing charge being included. The annual amount increases to $201.77 monthly and $2,373.75 annually (including the 2% processing fee) for two children. The new child support law would only be beneficial if both parents were equally responsible for providing for their children despite what parent claims primary custody.
The new law claims that spending more time with a child may decrease the amount of monthly child support that the non-residential parent will be ordered to pay. This is a significant change as the demand for shared parenting steadily increases across the nation. According to the NCSL (2016), approximately 36 states and Washington D.C. have an adjustment in the child support guidelines for parenting time. The current guidelines in Ohio have received a grade of ‘C- ‘by the National Parents Organization (NPO) in its 2014 shared parenting report card.
When considering parental rights and responsibilities for care of children, shared parenting, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code §3109.04, one provision is:
‘contingent on whether either parent has failed to make all child support payments, including arrears that are required, pursuant to the child support order where the non-custodial parent has been named the obligor’.
The new law is not clear as to if delinquency with child support payments will still affect the shared parenting clause and possible decreases in monthly payments. However, that should have certainly been one of the main changes included in the new guidelines. One of the most consistent arguments against the child support and child custody systems is the separation of the two when parents come before a family court judge. By separating custody and child support cases, the government can obviously generate more money for the state and for attorneys.
However, considering that Ohio is attempting to leave the non-custodial parent with a financial ‘cushion’ after child support is paid while simultaneously reducing payments when time is spent with his/her child, whether the non-custodial parent is current on their child support payments seems irrelevant to the shared-parenting conversation. Ideally, the law will separate child support and shared-parenting now so that it benefits non-custodial parents just as it has been separated for decades to financially benefit custodial parents, attorneys, and government agencies prior to this new law. In examining these ‘new’ laws, some could say that by calling this concept of child support payments being decreased based on time spent, at the least misleading, if not downright deceptive. The Ohio Revised Code §3119.24 (2001) state, in part, that
‘in shared-parenting orders, judges may order an amount of child support to be paid under the child support order that is calculated in accordance with the worksheet set forth in Section 3119.022 of the revised code through the line establishing the actual obligation, except that, if that amount would be unjust or inappropriate to the children or either parent.’
Of course, there are people in Ohio and across the nation who are either party to or know of a parent that has an inappropriate child support order that has left him or her without money to provide for their basic needs. Unfortunately, this guideline has been ignored, as has the guideline that states that the Ohio court may deviate from the child support amount under extraordinary circumstances. The guidelines list four specific circumstances that meet this criterion and number one on this list is ‘the amount of time the children spend with parent,’ (Ohio Revised Code, 2001). The need to implement this law is unnecessary as it is already law and lends some deceit by the government to parents eagerly fighting for significant child support reform.
All officials need to enforce the shared-parenting law already enacted. As we fight for meaningful and comprehensive child support reform, it is critical that we, The People, hold legislators accountable for their actions. If they propose and pass bills, these bills must benefit the children and the parents and not just regurgitate laws already on the books that are being ignored by enforcers of the child support program. Ohio Child Support Bill 366 addresses the need for parents to ensure that each child has medical insurance while there is court ordered child support judgment in place.
Jack’s Law Office reported that, in most cases, the court will order both parents to carry health insurance for the child. As with every state, if the custodial parent is considered low-income and meets the criteria to qualify for state funded insurance, the child(ren) will be receive Medicaid, free of charge, to the custodial parent. Again, in every state, unless there is a ‘good cause’ waiver granted by the government, the custodial parent must sue the non-custodial parent for the costs to recover monies spent on Medicaid for the children. One of the biggest problems with this, argues child support reform advocates, is that public benefits are grants and not loans.
These benefits have already been paid for by tax dollars and do not require repayment. However, that is another subject. To read more about states triple dipping in the name of child support, visit: https://thechildsupporthustle.com/states-triple-dip-in-the-name-of-child-support.
If the non-custodial parent is employed, he/she may be required to carry medical insurance through their employer for their child(ren). Even though, according to ODJFS, the non-custodial parent could deduct the cost from his/her annual income when calculating their child support. Unless the parent receives state funded medical insurance, both parents are generally responsible for equally paying for medical insurance.
According to OSBA, uncovered medical costs are usually ordered to be paid in pro-rated shares of the parent’s income, after the residential parent pays the first $100 per year. In addition to medical insurance, parents are responsible for any costs not covered by medical insurance. Current law holds both parents responsible for medical insurance. However, the ODJFS states that the parent ‘must file with the court and ask them to issue a judgment for the other parent to pay’ the exact amount owed for the medical bills. There is nothing in the new law that addresses if this procedure will change or if more court proceedings will be necessary for the non-custodial parent to recover money spent.
In Ohio, there is a section of the law concerning additional medical payments when there is a child support order in place. Medial support is a requirement in a support order for the obligor to pay a specific amount of money to cover the medical needs of the child. There are a couple of scenarios that pertain to medical support payments under the current law, both of which require the obligor or non-custodial parent, to pay money to the custodial parent or the welfare department for reimbursement for medical expenses. However, ultimately both parents are supposed to pay a certain percentage of the child’s remaining medical expenses.
Cash medical support is the amount ordered toward the cost of health insurance provided by a public entity, another parent, or person with whom the child resides, through employment or otherwise or for other medical costs, not covered by insurance, (ODJFS). As made clear through the different regulations, medical insurance, and cost recovery are very complicated issues but through each of the current laws, both parents are in some instance responsible for covering the child’s medical insurance and costs. Even if the non-custodial parent covers the child on his/her medical insurance in full, ODJFS states that the parent ‘must file with the court to ask them to issue a judgment for the other parent to pay the exact amount owed for the medical bills’. It never seems to matter if a mistake was made by the government in the form of an overpayment or in a case of seeking reimbursement for medical insurance, the only remedy ever offered to the non-custodial parent seems to involve facing the bench of a judge.
This single ‘suggested’ solution can be costly, time consuming, and may yield an unfavorable outcome for the non-custodial parent. Of course, this is typical when non-custodial parents are forced to deal with the child support/family court systems. With the ‘new’ law, there are several questions that need to be asked and answered by the legislators concerning medical insurance and cash medical support. Firstly, will the child support orders be modified to exclude the language referring to medical insurance and cash payments since the parent receiving child support is now responsible for medical insurance? Secondly, will the custodial parent face any penalties if he/she fails to provide any medical insurance or cash payments?
Though Federal tax law provides to the custodial parent, through a dependent exemption, state courts have the power to allocate the exemption to the non-custodial parent, if it will result in a net tax savings that will benefit the child. Very rarely are non-custodial parents granted exemptions when it relates to children residing outside of their homes. This, even though, many pay at least 65% (sometimes more) of their income in weekly or biweekly child support payments. When cash medical support is affected, the child support order has a sum due to the custodial parent and a separate sum (the cash medical support order) designed to contribute to medical expenses, (ODJFS).
This is clearly not benefiting the non-custodial parent if he/she is, at all, responsible for any portion of medical insurance or cash payments. And, of course, if the case is a Title IV-D/welfare case, the cash payments will be retained by the government for welfare ‘reimbursement’. It cannot be mentioned too many times that this money has already been paid for tax dollars. Moving on to a much discussed and extremely controversial topic in America is the issue of child care and the associated costs.
With the new law, child support will pay for daycare, but a cap will be put in place when calculating child support payments. As of August of 2018, the child support guidelines in Ohio state that a credit is provided for the child care expenses for the child in the child support order to the parent that is paying for the child care, (ODJFS). Unfortunately, the non-custodial parent cannot claim the child care credit on their taxes for several different reasons. The first reason is that in order for a person to claim any tax credits, the child must reside with that parent for at least a half of a year to meet that requirement.
The non-custodial parent cannot treat the child as a qualifying person even if that parent is entitled to claim the child as a dependent under the special rule indicated in the IRS specifications for a child of divorced or separated parents. The second reason that a non-custodial parent could not claim a child care credit for their child on their taxes would be if their child spends equal time with the custodial parent and the custodial parent has a higher adjusted income. More than likely, the custodial parent is the mother and if there are other children, there may be other Earned Tax Credits (ETC) for those children and possibly other low-income credits. This means that the non-custodial parent, usually the father, will be ineligible to claim these child care credits.
There is almost nothing more concerning then finding and affording child care for working-class parents with young children. This cap (depending on the amount) may be more detrimental to the child care industry and may be an attempt to lesson rising child care costs. This proposed cap does nothing to ensure that non-custodial parents will be able to utilize the opportunity to claim the child care expenses and received credit on their taxes. It could possibly take several years to measure any beneficial results to the ‘reform’ to the current child support guidelines and more importantly to the pockets of the non-custodial parent.
Finally, the new child support law states that in cases of multiple child support orders, non-custodial parents may see higher payments. This, of course, is of no benefit to the non-custodial parent and may be of no benefit to the children. Currently and traditionally, the child named on the first child support order is the child that receives the most money. Any child support orders filed after are usually lower, as they are based on incomes calculated minus the initial child support order amount. According to The WTOL Staff (2018), under the new law, each child would receive a standard amount, rather than the current system that gives a larger amount to the first child whose parent files for support.
The new guideline, while it does mention that the non-custodial parent may pay more, says nothing about the cap on income garnishments that are federal law. According to the Department of Labor (DOL) (2016), the garnishment law allows up to 50 percent of a worker’s disposable earnings to be garnished. This hardly leaves a non-custodial parent making minimum wage (or close to minimum wage) anywhere close to a livable income. In many instances that amount could increase to 65% or more in garnishments that could be deducted from the non-custodial parents’ disposable income leaving even less to live on from paycheck to paycheck. This creates a new class of ‘working poor’.
It is great news to the child support reform movement when any state passes reforms to the unconstitutional child support system. However, it is critical that each claim of reform be investigated so that parents know if they are benefiting from the changes or being handed the same, only recycled, laws for the sake of silencing d outcries of injustice. After reviewing the ‘new’ law, it is quickly determined that at least two of the changes implemented may, in fact, be different than what is on record, but the other two changes are already guidelines in Ohio. If we are to get significant and comprehensive child support reform, the legislators must admit that there is a need for such reform. The legislators must then realize that comprehensive reform will mean significantly less Title IV-D, incentive, and other monies for the government. Only then will real legislative reform be introduced, passed, and implemented that will truly benefit the parents, the country, and most importantly, the children.
129th General Assembly. (2001). Child support guideline advisory council to review basic schedule and worksheet.Title  XXX1 Domestic Relations-Children- Chapter 3119, 024(1). Retrieved from http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/3119.024v1
Department of Labor. (n.d.). Fact sheet – Wage and hour division (WHD) – U.S. department of labor. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs30.htm
Jack’s Law Office. (n.d.). Child support in Ohio and what you need to know. Retrieved fromhttps://ohioexecutivedivorce.com/blog/child-support-ohio-and-what-you-need-to-know/
National Conference of State Legislatures. (2018, July 18). Child support pass-through and disregard policies for public assistance recipients. Retrieved fromwww.ncsl.org/research/humanservices/state-policy-pass-through-disregard-child-support.aspx
National Parents Organization. (2014, December 3). 2014 Shared parenting report card. Retrieved from https://nationalparentsorganization.org/docs/2014_Shared_Parenting_Report_Card%2011-10-2014.pdf
Ohio State Bar Association. (2016, June 25). OSBA | How do courts determine child support? Retrieved fromhttps://www.ohiobar.org/forpublic/resources/lawyoucanuse/pages/lawyoucanuse-45.aspx
Siegel, J. (2018, June 7). After a two-month hiatus, Ohio House votes on a whopping 28 bills. The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved fromhttp://www.dispatch.com/news/20180607/after-two-month-hiatus-ohio-house-votes-on-whopping-28-bills://
WTOL Staff. (2018, July 5). Ohio parents: Major changes coming to child support laws. Retrieved from http://www.wtol.com/story/38581814/ohio-parents-major-changes-coming-to-child-support-laws