My Homeless Daughter Keeps Getting Pregnant—What Should I Do?

Newsweek – “Ask the Experts”

By Maria Azzurra Volpe On 6/3/23 at 6:00 AM EDT

Dear Newsweek,

I would appreciate any words of advice. I have a daughter who has three children and was living with her dad and stepmom sleeping on their couch for the last eight months, not trying to find a job.

She and her children have no routine, they make a mess and don’t listen. Two weeks ago, her stepmom found out she is pregnant again. Her father and stepmom asked her to leave.

I’m her mom and I live in a two-bedroom apartment where I’m raising two grandkids from my oldest daughter. I let her come stay for a few nights and it was just too much. I can’t allow her and her three children to live with us in our two-bedroom.

Plus I cannot financially afford to take care of four more people. It’s not my responsibility to take them in, but she is constantly telling me she has nowhere to go.

This is her fault for keeping on getting pregnant, not working and just being lazy. Is this my responsibility? I’m heartbroken over this. I’m heartbroken over my grandkids. Any words of advice?

Barbara, Texas

I Would Prioritize My Grandchildren’s Well-Being

Featured Expert:

Andrew A. Zashin is the managing partner of Zashin & Rich where he leads the firm’s family law and international family law practice groups. He has represented parties in some of the rare family law cases heard by the Supreme Court.

Dear Barbara,

I’m sorry to hear that you are going through this difficult situation. It is clear that you are torn between wanting to help and the practical challenges that come with taking your daughter and grandchildren into your already full household. Here are a few ideas that may help.

First and foremost, if I were you, I would prioritize my grandchildren’s well-being and best interests over my daughter’s when considering this complicated situation. While you may understandably feel resentful towards your daughter for her choices and lack of responsibility, try to separate your disappointment from the needs of the children. They are helpless victims in this situation.
Barbara, you did not mention a father to any of your grandchildren. Is there one in the picture? Is there a child support award for one or more of your grandchildren? Perhaps this should be a front-burner issue. Why should all of the financial burden rest on your daughter’s, and your family’s, shoulders? If there is no child support order in place, I suggest that you help your daughter find a competent family law attorney immediately.

As their grandparent, you have a special bond with your grandchildren and want what is best for them. Children require stability, routine, and a nurturing environment to thrive. Given your limited space and financial constraints, it might also be beneficial to explore alternative solutions that can provide your daughter and her children with temporary support while she works towards gaining stability. Encourage her to seek assistance from local social services, community organizations, or government programs that can help provide her with housing, job training, or educational opportunities. In doing so, you are still showing concern and support for her, while also ensuring the well-being of your grandchildren.
If your daughter is unable—or unwilling—to provide your grandchildren with these essentials, you may need to seek other options to provide them with a stable and secure living situation. This may include contacting the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Throughout this process, it is important for you to maintain open lines of communication with your daughter, if possible. Express your concerns and boundaries clearly, emphasizing that while you may not be able to provide immediate shelter, you are willing to support her in finding the resources she needs to get back on her feet. Offer to help her with her job search or connect her with relevant support networks in your community.

It is also essential to take care of your own well-being, too. This situation can be emotionally draining, so seek support from friends, family, or support groups who can offer guidance and lend an empathetic ear.
As a final thought, while it may not be your responsibility to take in your daughter and her children, your grandchildren are lucky to have a caring and supportive grandparent in their lives. By providing support, guidance, and assisting in finding resources, you can help your daughter and her children work towards a more stable and independent future.

This article originally appeared on Newsweek – “Ask the Experts.”

2023-11-10T13:38:03-05:00June 3rd, 2023|Child Support|

The (Ohio child support) times they are a-changin’

By Andrew Zashin*

For the first time since 1992, Ohio laws governing child support are changing. Years in the making, these changes were signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this past summer and will take effect in March 2019. These new rules will bring about some big – and not-so-big – changes.

Most people are familiar with the concept of “child support.” At its most basic, child support is paid from one parent to the other and is intended to be used to provide for a child’s needs. Most often, it would be transferred from the parent having less parenting time to the parent who is providing more of the care. Sometimes, it may be transferred from a higher income earner to a lower income earner, irrespective of the parenting time schedule.

In Ohio, the number is governed by a formula, but that formula is not necessarily set in stone, and there are many reasons that might lead a court to vary – the appropriate legal term is a “deviation” – from the computed amount. A parent can be on the hook for support irrespective of whether he or she is in the child’s life. And, if the child is in the care of someone other than a parent, the parents may actually owe support to some other third party.

Frequently, clients will walk into my office with ideas about what sort of support they should receive or pay. Maybe a friend or sibling or a neighbor’s sister’s best friend’s cousin is getting or paying support, and that number shapes their analysis. However, it is important to note every situation is unique, and these calculations are fact-dependent. In fact, the calculation varies based upon the income of the parties, the number of minor children born to the parents, the number of minor children from outside of the relationship, the cost of health insurance and even the parenting time schedule, among other things.

Some of the upcoming changes are as follows:

  • Improved protection at very low income levels to better ensure that the payor will have money for his or her own living expenses;
  • Increased guidance and consistency among cases involving greater household income levels, more than $150,000, where these had previously been very subjective;
  • Updating of the economic tables that form the backbone of Ohio child support calculations, based upon more current data to help better account for the current costs of living and raising children, and to, ideally, arrive at more “financially appropriate” results;
  • Changed treatment when a payor has multiple children of different relationships, with a goal of seeing all children of an obligor receive similar levels of support; this is a departure from the prior handling, which often saw the first child support order filed getting the “best deal” and the later-filed cases seeing smaller awards based on what is “left”;
  • Institution of a “cap” on the work-related child care costs that can be considered in the support calculation, which will be tied to the average costs throughout the state;
  • Automatic deviations downward if the child support obligor spends more than 90 nights with the minor child, and an expectation that a further deviation will be considered as the number of nights gets to 147, in an effort to better allocate support funds between parents in accordance with the actual division of care; and
  • Tightened requirements for ongoing review of the child support laws in an effort to ensure that the needs of Ohio’s children are better being met within the child support system.

It will be several months before we begin to get a better idea of how these changes will work out for parents in practice. However, while we will never be able to get a “perfect” system, the hope is that these changes will ultimately better allocate resources and provide for the children that they are intended to help.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:11-05:00November 28th, 2018|Child Support|

School rules – where will children go when they return to school

By Andrew Zashin*

For Ohio families, August usually means the end of summer break and the start of the next school year. Some basic level of education is, of course, required by Ohio law, and children between the ages of 6 and 18 are expected to attend school.

And, while home schooling – which is often coupled with online resources – is permitted, the majority of Ohio children will head back to some type of brick-and-mortar school.

How do parents decide where their children will go to school? Obviously, public schools are the tuition-free, publicly funded option and are open and available to all Ohioans. On the other hand, parents may opt for one of the many available – though not free – private, secular options, or for the combination of secular and Judaic education offered by a Jewish day school. Clearly, the choice between public school and private, or between religious and secular, will vary – perhaps quite widely – from family to family.

When children are going to attend public school, the available option, or options, will be given by where the parents live. If two parents live together, clearly there is no question of which public school district is appropriate. But if the parents live apart, there may be two options to choose from.

If the parents aren’t together, the school question can be more complex. Like decisions involving other important aspects of a child’s life, schooling decisions are made by the parent or parents having legal custody. And people often confuse the ideas of physical custody or, where the child is at any given time with legal custody, which is decision-making authority.

Stated more simply

  • If a child is born to unmarried parents, the biological mother has legal custody of that child by default under Ohio law, at least until someone else is awarded rights in lieu of the mother or along with the mother. In that case, the mother decides where the child will go to school.
  • If the children are the subject of a legal battle surrounding custody, the appropriate court may need to be involved in the school registration question.
  • If the parents have litigated their case, whether as a divorce/dissolution/legal separation matter, or as a custody case between unmarried parents in juvenile court, legal custody will ultimately be awarded either solely to one parent, or to them jointly in a setup known as shared parenting. If one parent was awarded sole custody by a court, that parent will decide the school issue.
  • If custody is shared between parents, a shared parenting plan document will spell out which parent is the residential parent for school purposes. Unless a court order states otherwise, this designation usually does not give that parent any greater authority than the other to make schooling decisions but, instead, merely indicates in which parent’s school district the child will be enrolled.

The costs of any education-related tuition will usually be divided between the parents, assuming everyone agrees on the schooling decision. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to see a parent forced to pay toward a private school against his or her wishes as courts will generally acknowledge that there is a free option available via public school. And, because of the separation of church and state in the United States, it can also be difficult to get a child enrolled in a religious-based school if a co-parent opposes it.

In today’s society, schools have become accustomed to all different types of parenting setups. If you are unsure about what rights you have as to your children’s schooling, the school itself or, better yet, an attorney, can help you to decipher your court order.

At the time of enrollment, the prospective school likely will ask a few questions about your family situation and will expect to receive a copy of any parenting order before you will be able to get your child enrolled in your school of choice.

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

2023-11-10T13:38:11-05:00August 2nd, 2018|Child Custody, Child Support, School Enrollment|

What will happen to my income after divorce?

By Andrew Zashin*

This article originally appeared as a column for the Cleveland Jewish News.

In helping divorcing clients, we very frequently encounter marriages in which one spouse has been the primary breadwinner. Sometimes the other spouse has stayed home to raise the children, or perhaps works only part-time. Sometimes both spouses work full-time, but one of them is in a much higher paying position. Whatever the reason, the question is the same: “What will happen to my income when I get divorced?”

Most people are slightly familiar with the idea of child support. In Ohio, we have a nice, tidy formula to calculate it. Practitioners, courts and the Child Support Enforcement Agency usually have software packages into which we put the annual income of mom, the annual income of dad, the number of children, and a few other bits of information regarding certain expenses, and a number comes out the other side. You can find calculators online as well. There are, of course, numerous exceptions, caveats and arguments to be made, and it does not work well when the family income is in excess of $150,000. But at least it gives us a starting point.

Spousal support, on the other hand, is a more confusing animal, with no neat formula to calculate it. Its purpose has morphed a bit over time. It has its roots in a time when women worked as homemakers, most often with little to no other marketable job skills, and men worked outside the home to provide financial support for the family.

Of course nowadays it is commonplace to see a wide variety of family configurations. We certainly still see stay-at-home moms, but we also see dual-income families, stay-at-home dads, and many wives who out-earn their husbands. Thus, while the basic principles of spousal support have remained the same, spousal support is now gender-neutral – yes, men may also be awarded spousal support – and intended for rehabilitation, not permanent maintenance.

In determining whether and how much spousal support is appropriate, Ohio courts are required to consider a number of factors, including the parties’ respective incomes and earning capacities, the duration of the marriage, the career prospects that one may have given up to care for children of the marriage, and the time and expense required for a financially dependent spouse to become more independent.

While the list of guidelines is pretty comprehensive, the law does not state how much weight to give each factor, nor does it give any instruction on how to apply each factor. Thus, the courts have wide discretion when fashioning an award. And we haven’t even touched on duration of support yet.

Similarly, there are no guidelines under the law regarding how many years the financially disadvantaged spouse should receive support. The rule of thumb in Cuyahoga County, as in many other counties in northeast Ohio, is one year of spousal support for every three years of marriage. However, it is important to note that this is only a generally accepted practice, not a rule of law. Here, again, the courts again have wide discretion to find that more or less support is equitable.

Unfortunately this discretion often results in widely disparate support awards that depend on more than just the specific facts of your case. They also depend on what courtroom the matter is in. For example, one judge might rule to “maintain the status quo.”

Another judge might rule that your spouse must pay only necessary “living” expenses, including the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and utilities. Yet another judge might find that payment of all living expenses plus an amount of extra cash is more appropriate. All the scenarios are equally likely. Yes, you read that correctly – the same set of facts, tried in front of three different hearing officers, following the exact same set of laws, can result in three very different support awards.

Ultimately, each case is going to be unique, and what happened in your friend’s case, your sister’s case, or your mother’s hairdresser’s case might have virtually no correlation to what happens in your own. Regardless of more systemic concerns, an experienced family law professional will be able to look at the specifics of your case and, in spite of the inherent unpredictability of support awards, give you a range of reasonable outcomes tailored to your specific situation.

*Andrew Zashin writes about law for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is a co-managing partner with Zashin & Rich, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

2023-11-10T13:38:15-05:00June 19th, 2014|Child Support, Divorce, Spousal Support|
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