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.