Recent Ohio child support law changes are somewhat kinder to noncustodial parents, but the state’s Child Support Enforcement Agency can still take numerous steps to collect past due support, from extra income withholding to seizing tax refunds and placing liens on real and personal property.
Child support is a legal obligation, so it should come as no surprise that individual states and the federal government both have numerous laws in place to regulate payments. The laws allow the government to get involved when support isn’t being paid and detail what enforcement actions can be taken against delinquent parents. Ohio’s legislation is no exception.
The Child Support Enforcement Agency
Ohio’s Child Support Enforcement Agency is the entity that normally initiates action when a noncustodial parent fails to pay court-ordered child support. The CSEA has the right to petition the court for permission to take various enforcement measures and it also can take some steps on its own even without involving the court.
Like most states, Ohio law requires that child support payments be made through income withholding. Support orders and even modifications of orders automatically include boilerplate language that mandates that employers must withhold support from a noncustodial parent’s pay and forward it to the state for transmission to the custodial parent. This allows the CSEA to monitor that payments are being made. This service and any enforcement steps the CSEA takes are provided to custodial parents free of charge.
Withholding isn’t limited to just wages or salaries in Ohio. The same type of order can go into effect for numerous sources of income, including pensions, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation payments, bank accounts and even lottery winnings. Just about any source of cash income can be subject to income withholding.
Self-employed noncustodial parents can be required to post a cash bond with the state. Delinquent support payments can be deducted from this money, and the parent must then reimburse the bond. Unemployed noncustodial parents and parents with no definable sources of income can be subject to reporting orders. They must regularly check in with the state regarding their efforts to find jobs and to report any unexpected sources of income they might receive.
Ohio Child Support Laws for Nonpayment
The CSEA has a lot of options at its disposal to collect child support. It doesn’t have to approach the court for approval first before it can order a noncustodial parent’s employer to withhold extra money to cover delinquent payments as well as current support. The CSEA can also report the delinquency to credit bureaus and intercept lottery and gambling winnings.
The agency must seek the approval of the court before it can take certain other steps to enforce collection, such as garnishment of tax refunds, liens against property and suspension of driver’s, professional or recreational licenses. A parent’s passport can be denied and in serious cases, the CSEA might even ask the court to find the parent in contempt of the support order, which can result in a bench warrant for her arrest and ultimately jail time. The court will typically find a parent in contempt when she has the resources to pay but refuses to do so, particularly if she hasn’t paid support in quite some time.
Ohio Child Support Help for Fathers
Ohio law does recognize that many noncustodial parents really want to support their children, but are simply unable to do so because of financial hardship. A judge might reduce the amount of child support payments if the parent goes back to court to establish that he’s simply unable to make them, at least at the present time. If he doesn’t, unpaid support in the amount of the original order will just keep adding up. It’s important for noncustodial parents to understand that they have certain legal rights – custodial parents cannot refuse parenting time or visitation because the noncustodial parent isn’t paying support. Visitation and support are two completely separate legal issues.
2018 Law Changes
Some Ohio child support law changes were signed by Governor John Kasich in July 2018. Many of the law’s provisions serve to increase a parent’s child support, but a few changes are more friendly to noncustodial parents. Those who earn $14,000 or less in a year cannot be obligated to make child support payments that are more than their income or that leaves them with no money left over to meet basic living expenses.
Adjustments are also being made to include more-than-average visitation times into child support calculations, which could effectively lower payments, and to limit the amount of child care expenses that are included in support calculations, which previously could have increased a support payment rather significantly.
The Uniform Federal Family Support Act
The federal government also enforces child support obligations under some circumstances. The Uniform Federal Family Support Act provides that all states must cooperate with each other to enforce support orders when a noncustodial parent moves out of state or if he never lived in the same state as his child in the first place. It’s a federal misdemeanor offense to fail to pay child support for a year or longer, or when a parent owes in excess of $5,000, provided that the noncustodial parent lives in another state. This can result in up to six months in prison. The federal government also cooperates with the interception of tax refunds to collect delinquent child support debts.