It is National Child Support month and a good time to talk about changes coming to the child support system.
A series of changes to Ohio’s child support law begin taking effect next year:
- The economic tables used to calculate child support orders will change for the first time since 1992.
- Health care and medical expenses will be taken into consideration when establishing new orders.
- Parenting time will be considered when establishing new child support orders.
- New cases will now have a self-sufficiency reserve, ensuring those paying child support have enough income after paying to support themselves.
These are just a few of the changes. The idea is to re-engage parents who haven’t been paying and to set orders at a level the parent realistically can meet. The belief is that lowering the amount of monthly payments will make it easier for parents to meet their obligations, resulting in a higher percentage of people paying.
The number one goal of the child support system is collecting money to meet the basic needs of children. We know one third of all child support cases don’t receive any payments in a given year. If those parents have disengaged from the system because they simply can’t afford to meet the monthly obligation, then that goal is not being met.
We welcome law changes that increase the chance of payment. Some payment is better than no payment.
The same philosophy is behind our organization offering license amnesty this month to parents who are delinquent on child support. Amnesty is a one-time offer to reinstate a driver’s license or professional license in exchange for repayment of at least a month’s worth of child support and providing us employment information to garnish wages for future support.
We make that arrangement for the benefit of the child. It is a gamble. But if we don’t offer amnesty and re-engage that parent, we are not getting any support. It is a gamble worth taking and it most often works out in a child’s favor.
The penalties for not paying child support run the gamut all the way up to imprisonment. But the ultimate punishment is also the ultimate failure. A parent who is in jail and not working is a parent who is not paying child support. Meeting the child’s basic needs is more important than punishment.
That is not to say we won’t enforce a child support order. We garnish wages, intercept tax returns, place liens on property and suspend licenses, among other things. Last year, we collected more than $127 million on behalf of the 75,000 child support cases we monitored every month.
Probably close to half of the county’s 800,000 residents are involved in a child support case with our agency. The children involved in those cases are our priority. But I also believe there is a secondary goal in re-engaging with parents who aren’t paying: getting the absent parent re-involved in the child’s life.
We know children are more successful if they have strong relationships with their parents. If a parent is avoiding child support, they aren’t going to be involved with the child. Changing that is almost as important as collecting the support to meet the child’s basic needs.