Ohio child support laws are meant to ensure that both parents contribute to a child's financial needs after divorce. The state also ensures that children receive adequate support, particularly when parents lack sufficient financial resources to accomplish this themselves. In response to Federal legislation mandating a state disbursement unit for collecting and disbursing child support payments, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services developed the Child Support Enforcement Agency, which establishes and enforces support orders for parents that are receiving public assistance. There are branches of the CSEA in all Ohio counties.
The state of Ohio offers public assistance to needy families. This can include food stamps, health coverage, cash assistance and heating allowances. If either parent is receiving these benefits, the funds are not considered "income" for the purposes of calculating child support. Instead, the state combines the wages that both parents are making or have the ability to make -- and takes that number and compares to a state-provided chart that lists total joint adjusted incomes and child support amounts for each. The parent ordered to pay support, typically the non-custodial parent, is required to pay a percentage of the guideline amount in the same proportion that his income is to the combined income.
Role of CSEA
If the parent with whom the child lives, known as the custodial parent, is on public assistance, the parent is automatically referred to the CSEA for help with establishing an initial child support order. In fact, once a support order is in place, the non-custodial parent may not make any payments directly to the custodial parent. Instead, all payments must go to a centralized office in Columbus along with a processing fee.
In cases where the non-custodial parent fails to pay pursuant to a child support order, the custodial parent continues to receive public assistance while the CSEA tries to collect. CSEA has both administrative and judicial options. The agency can start wage withholding through a parent's employer without first obtaining a court order. Additionally, the agency can go to court and request that the judge hold the non-custodial parent in contempt, which can result in the imposition of fines, jail time, or the suspension of driver's and professional licenses.
The CSEA may also pursue child support modifications on behalf of a parent receiving public assistance. This requires the filing of a motion and attending a court hearing to present evidence. In Ohio, existing child support orders may be increased or decreased only if there is a change of circumstance from the time the last order was issued. Typical reasons for modifying an order include the involuntary loss of a job or other significant changes in income. Further, if the child's expenses have increased, such as a rise in uninsured medical costs due to a disability, it might warrant a modification.