By Russell Hauser
Child Support Basics
In general, child support orders are payments made from one parent (the obligor) to the other parent (the obligee) to help pay for the child’s needs. Child support orders can be drawn up by the appropriate court or the local child support enforcement agency.
Child support orders are based on several factors, including income from both parents, the expenses necessary to care for the child, how much time each parent spends with the child, and any other relevant factors (Ohio Revised Code Section 3119.23). However, child support orders are not static and can be modified depending on the circumstances.
Modifying Child Support in Ohio
Under Ohio law, certain rules apply when obligors attempt to modify or reduce their child support payments (Ohio Revised Code Section 3119.79). In general, an obligor is eligible to request a modification to the amount of their child support payment every 36 months. However, obligors are also eligible to apply for modifications to their child support order when they have a change in their circumstances that impacts their ability to pay child support. Examples of changes in circumstances include incarceration, job loss, disability, and a 30% decrease in income or assets.
Child support orders can originate from Domestic Relations Court, Juvenile Court, or your local child support enforcement agency. The route to modify an order depends on where it originates from:
- If the child support order originates from Domestic Relations Court, then obligors must file a motion through Domestic Relations Court to modify their order.
- If the child support order originates from Juvenile Court, then obligors can ask Juvenile Court or their local child support
enforcement agency to modify the order.
- If the child support order originates from the local child support enforcement agency, then obligors can ask their local agency to modify the order.
In order to begin the modification process, obligors should contact their local child support office and request a modification when their circumstances have changed. After first contact, the child support office will send paperwork to the obligor that must be completed and returned to the child support office. It is important to complete all paperwork and meet all submission deadlines. Obligors should make copies of everything that is returned to the child support office in case it gets lost or misplaced. The obligor is responsible for requesting a modification and following through to meet all deadlines.
An obligor facing incarceration in jail or prison for more than 180 days (about six months) should immediately request and complete a modification of their child support order. Ohio law generally allows for a minimum child support orders of $80 per month, but payments can be reduced further during a period of incarceration if the obligor has no other income. The defense attorney that represented an obligor in their criminal case should be able to provide information about the child support modification process to the appropriate court or agency.
The Cuyahoga County Office of Child Support Services (OCSS) also assists in the modification process by issuing the appropriate forms for modification to obligors facing incarceration for more than 180 days. OCSS also verifies an obligor’s wages during incarceration to determine if a reduced child support order is available. More information is available from Cuyahoga County OCSS here: Modifying Child Support - Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.
More information is available from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Office of Child Support here: Office of Child Support | Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 39, Issue 1, in May 2023. See full issue at this link: “The Alert”- Volume 39, Issue 1 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.