In Ohio, when spouses decide to divorce, all the issues of the marriage must be resolved, such as property division and alimony. However, sometimes spouses must navigate even thornier issues, such as paternity. If your spouse is requesting child support, but you don't think you are the biological father, you must challenge paternity and be proactive in doing so. Otherwise, you could not only be subjected to a child support order, but one that applies retroactively -- to a time before the divorce.
Paternity and Divorce
Ohio law presumes that any child born during a marriage is the biological child of both spouses. Therefore, when divorcing spouses have children, the court will establish a child support order to ensure each child is financially supported. Unless a spouse challenges paternity, such orders will be automatic as part of the divorce process. Paternity may be contested for a variety of reasons. For example, a husband may believe he is impotent and incapable of producing children or that his spouse has been unfaithful. If you suspect a child of the marriage is not your biological child, you must petition the court for a paternity determination, which can be made separately or as part of the divorce action.
Child Support Generally
In Ohio, retroactive, or back-dated, child support is only available when paternity is at issue. Child support usually begins at the time a court first enters a child support order, typically early on in the divorce proceedings if spouses no longer live together. If requested, the court may issue a temporary order of child support to be paid while the divorce proceedings are under way; the order can be replaced with a permanent order once the divorce is finalized. If you contest paternity and the child is later proved to be yours, it is unlikely the court will order you to pay retroactive child support since the original child support order will have been established near or at the same time as your divorce.
Retroactive Child Support
If you and your spouse have lived separately from one another for quite some time, the court may order you to pay retroactive child support if your paternity suit is unsuccessful and a child support order was not established during that time. In this case, your spouse may not only ask for child support as part of the divorce, but also retroactive support dating back to the time of separation. In Ohio, retroactive child support may be requested up until the child reaches the age of 23. However, if your paternity suit is successful, this could open up the door for the child's biological father to be held responsible for any retroactive child support.
After a child support order is established, either parent may request its modification if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the new support order would result in a 10 percent change, more or less, in the current obligation. A child support order may be changed by parental agreement or court order. If the modification request is submitted to the court that issued the original order and approved, the new support amount will be made retroactive to the date when the petition for modification was filed.