Before you sit down to mediate, here are answers to 15 questions about child support in Ohio which should help inform your decision-making process:
What is Child Support?
Child support encompasses the obligation that each parent has to supporting the economic welfare of their children. While a divorce may seem to cut household income in half, child support payments help to lessen the impact on children. All children need a roof over their head, food on the table, clothing, haircuts and school supplies. Child support payments should not be viewed as an economic windfall or transfer of assets. Rather, it is intended as economic support for children based on a formula that considers, among other matters, the proportional incomes of the parents and the percentage of time that parents spend with their children.
In Ohio, the Office of Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) administers child support and publishes a manual for its calculation. Payments and enforcement are handled through the Child Support Enforcement Agency, which has offices in every county.
Child support obligations are governed by statute. ODJFS supplies worksheets which provide an objective formula for calculating the child support obligation amount.
Where do I find the child support worksheets to determine the obligation amount?
The child support calculator is available through the ODJFS website. The Department provides an online calculator which walks you through the formula, step-by-step.
The calculator is linked with two different worksheets, depending on your parenting arrangement:
- “Sole/shared” parenting arrangements (worksheet JFS 07768); and
- “Split parenting” arrangements (worksheet JFS 07769).
Sole parenting occurs when one parent has sole or primary custody of the children. Shared parenting is what is commonly understood as “joint custody” in which both parents share in some or all of the parenting time and responsibilities. Split parenting (which is much less common) occurs when the children are allowed to split up and live with different parents – for example, the oldest child lives with the mother, and the younger lives with the father.
Who owes child support and how much?
Both parents are required to financially support their children, including the parent who has primary custody of the children. The biggest factor in determining who “owes” child support is the relative earnings of each parent.
Ohio follows the “income shares” model which combines the parents’ gross incomes, applies deductions, and then aligns each parent’s proportional share of the adjusted gross income to a basic child support schedule which specifies the annual amount of support required for the children. That is, each parent pays their percentage share of the statutory support amount.
The basic child support schedule was updated in 2019 for the time in nearly 30 years to reflect a more accurate average cost of raising children. The schedule will now be updated by ODJFS at least every 5 years to keep pace with the current cost of living.
The minimum child support amount owed is $80/month. The basic child support schedule begins at a combined gross income of $8,400/yr and maxes out at $336,000/yr. Beyond this income level, child support obligations are extrapolated.
To take an example: let’s say a couples’ combined adjusted gross income is $100,000. Mom makes $60,000, and dad earns $40,000. If they have one child, the scheduled amount is $11,864 per year. Mom is paying the support—since she has the higher income—and she must pay $7,010, or 60% of the charted amount.
How do you complete the Child Support Worksheets in Ohio?
Each parent must complete the child support worksheet. Step-by-step instructions can be found in the ODJFS’ manual.
The general sequence for completing the worksheet is not unlike completing a tax return. The basic flow and structure is as follows:
- Section 1 (“Gross Income”) has you add up your annual gross income (lines 1-8).
- Section 2 (“Adjustments to Income”) is the adjusted gross income amount with deductions for: (i) the number of minor children outside the family; (ii) out-of-pocket insurance premiums; and (iii) spousal support paid (lines 9-13).
- Section 3 (“Income Shares”) combines the adjusted gross income to reveal each parent’s income share – or percentage. (lines 14-17)
- Section 4 (“Support Calculation”) applies further credits for: (i) a “parenting time order” with a 10% deduction for at least 90 overnights with the children; (ii) social security benefits for the child; and (iii) child care expenses (e.g., day care) necessary to allow the parent to work. (lines 18-22). Once these credits are applied, you have an adjusted child support obligation for each parent. (line 22).
- Section 5 (“Cash Medical”) is an alternative order that applies when neither parent has health insurance. (line 23 and subparts)
- Section 6 (“Recommended Monthly Orders for Decree”) applies any deviations to the child support amount and provides a final child support amount owed from one parent to the other. (lines 24-30).
How does income factor in to the support calculation?
Gross income is defined by section of 3119.01(c)(12) of the Ohio Revised Code to include income from all salaries, wages, overtime pay and bonuses. Other sources of income, such as royalties, tips, dividends, etc also apply. Gross income does not include, for example, means-tested government aid.
If a parent is self-employed, the reportable income amount includes gross receipts minus ordinary and necessary expenses.
What if a parent is unemployed or under-employed?
If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, then “potential” or “imputed” income may factor into the child support equation. Section 3119.01(C)(17) defines “imputed” income with consideration of, among other factors, the parent’s:
- prior employment experience;
- physical and mental disabilities, if any;
- special skills and training;
Other criteria include the availability of employment in the parent’s area, and the prevailing wage and salary level in that area.
Determination of “imputed” income, therefore, is a multi-factored analysis that requires a detailed understanding of the parent’s ability, skill and job prospects. At times, a vocational expert may need to weigh in.
How does parenting time impact child support?
For parents obligated to pay child support, they now receive a 10% “discount” if they have the kids for at least 90 overnights per year – or for approximately one-fourth of the year. The Ohio legislation enacted this parenting time adjustment as part of its 2019 amendment to the child care guidelines. The adjustment works as a credit in which the parent multiplies their child support obligation by .10.
If a parent has more than 147 overnights, then a court must further adjust the child support payment downward or explain in writing its reasons for not doing so.
What about health insurance?
Under Ohio law, the child support obligee (the parent receiving support) is “rebuttably presumed” to be the parent responsible for providing health insurance for the children. This presumption is rebutted if the child support obligor (the parent paying support) already has or can obtain health insurance for the child(ren) that is reasonable in cost. https://codes.ohio.gov/ohio-revised-code/section-3119.30
In the child support worksheet, the parties must identify the health insurance “obligor” (the parent paying for the child(ren)’s health insurance) and enter the total out-of-pocket annual health insurance premiums for the children that the parent has paid or is expected to pay. See Line 10a and 10b of the worksheet. The annual health insurance premiums paid serve as a deduction which adjusts the parent’s income downward.
To borrow from the example above, if Mom makes $60,000 of the combined annual income of $100,000 — but she also pays $4,000 per year in health insurance premiums for their child – then her percentage share of the charted child support amount will drop from 60% to 56%.
What if there is no health insurance?
If the parents do not have health insurance for the children – or if they later lose coverage – then the “cash medical support” obligation comes into effect. All child support orders effectively contain two separate obligations – one for when there is health insurance coverage, and one for when there is not. ORC Sec. 3119.05(F).
The parent paying child support is responsible for 100% of the “cash medical obligation.” This is a benchmark amount set for ordinary medical expenses that includes:
- $388.70 for one child
- $777.40 for two children
- $1,166.10 for three children, and so forth.
Any medical expenses exceeding these amounts are considered “extraordinary medical expenses” that are shared by the parents at a negotiated percentage, or as determined by CSEA or the court.
In some cases, when couples negotiate cash medical, they set the obligation amount to zero and agree to a percentage split of their children’s uncovered medical expenses from the “first dollar.”
What if you pay for child care?
Child care expenses that are necessary to allow a parent to go to work can also modify the child support obligation. The children must be 12-years or younger, and there are maximum allowable child care costs. But for parents who have qualifying child care expenses, these are factored into the total child support amount. Borrowing from the example above, if the chartered amount is $11,864, but Dad also pays an additional $8,000 for day care to go to work, then the total support cost comes up to $19,864. This is the total cost which is divided between the parents based on the relative share of income.
Can you deviate from the guideline amount?
Yes. After you complete the child support worksheet, you may decide that the guideline amount should be adjusted upward or downward. Ohio statute proscribes 16 factors that allow you to deviate from the guideline amount. Some of these factors include, for example:
- Special needs of a child(ren);
- Extended parenting time;
- Benefits that either parent receives from remarriage;
- Amount of federal, state and local taxes paid;
- Extraordinary work-related expenses;
- Standard of living child would have enjoyed had the marriage continued; and
- Post-secondary educational expenses paid.
- Any other “relevant factor” which must be expressly identified.
The decision of whether to deviate lies ultimately within the discretion of court and is guided by what court deems to be in the child’s best interest.
Can you modify your child support order?
Yes. An obligation to pay child support is always modifiable due to a change in circumstances. A motion must be filed with the court. The request to modify will back-date to the date the motion is filed. Typically, you must wait 3 years, or 36 months, to request an administrative review of your support order. To do so, you must submit form: JFS 01849, “Request for an Administrative Review of the Child Support Order” with CSEA.
If it has been less than 3 years, you may still apply for administrative review but you must provide reasons, such as unforeseen unemployment. It takes CSEA at least 15 days to determine whether your request is approved or denied.
When does child support terminate?
The requirement to pay child support ends when the child is 18; or if the child is 18 and still in high school, then when the child graduates from high school.
If you have multiple children, the amount of support is prorated for remaining children after one of the children listed in the order reaches the age of majority or is otherwise emancipated.
In all cases, the termination or reduction of child support is not automatic. Rather, the residential parent must notify CSEA the reasons why the support order should terminate or be reduced.
How do you pay for child support?
Child support payments are handled through the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA). Direct payments between parents are not permitted. A direct payment from one parent to the other is considered a gift and the paying parent will find themselves delinquent in the eyes of the law.
Child support payments are subject to income withholding. Once a child support order is created, the court will issue an “Income Withholding for Support” order to the employer of the child support obligor. An income-withholding order should specify how much should be withheld from a pay-check on a monthly, semi-monthly, or weekly pay cycle. After the employer receives the order, the employer must deduct the specified amount each pay period and send the payment to Ohio Child Support Payment Central (CSPC). CSPC then disburses the payment to the recipient parent.
A parent is not required to tell their employer that they owe child support. Employers must withhold the amount specified in the order, but in no case shall the amount withheld exceed the maximum amount permitted under 303(b) of the Consumer Credit Protection Act – which is a limit of 50 percent of “disposable earnings” (or net income) if the obligated parent has a second family; and 60 percent if there is no second family. ORC 3121.03(A)(1)(c).
If the obligor parent is self-employed or not employed, payments can be made and received online at: https://oh.smartchildsupport.com; in person at a CSEA county office; or you can mail support payment to CSPC at the address below:
P.O. Box 182372
Columbus, OH 43218-2372
Credit/debit card payments can be made over the phone by calling 1-833-261-5737.
With all child support payments, there is an administrative processing charge which amounts to 2 percent of the support obligation amount.
Are there any tax implications with child support?
The short answer is No. Child support is “tax neutral” – support payments are neither deductible for the payor nor taxable to the recipient.
Next Page Mediation can help you negotiate and determine a child support order as well as a parenting plan. Schedule a free consultation call, or get in touch with our firm by calling us at (216) 206-9789.