Under Ohio law, child support is calculated based on a Child Support Computation Worksheet. The court awards child support according to amount provided by the Child Support Computation Worksheet, which is designed to ensure consistency of child support orders from county to county across the state as well as to make the calculation process more efficient. This Worksheet considers each parent’s income and expenses in proportion to the income and expenses of the other parent.
Income is considered from a variety of recurring sources including wages, self-employment earnings, unemployment or other social service benefits, and retirement and pensions. Another common issue is the imputation of income, which is essentially a determination of a party’s income earning ability, whether they are actually earning that income or not.When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or under employed, or making less than they are capable based on their background, education and experience, the court may assign an income to them for child support calculation purposes. This prevents a parent from quitting their job while child support is being calculated for the sole purpose of affecting the child support obligation in their favor, then simply returning to the earning potential when the case is completed.
Once all the income sources have been determined, there are essentially two important resulting numbers. First, the combined total of the parties’ incomes is figured. This is important because it is applied to a chart based on the number of children in the family that will ultimately determine the amount of child support. Second, each party’s income is calculated relative to the combined total. For example, assume that the combined income of the parties is $111,000, the father earns 64%, or $71,000, the mother earns 36%, $40,000, and there are three children. The Basic Child Support Schedule tells us that the amount of child support would be $20,800 per year, so father would pay 64% of $20,800 per year, or $1,110.00 per month. If, however, the father has custody, then the mother would pay 36% of $20,800 per year, or $624.00 per month.
Expenses include medical and healthcare expenses, childcare, taxes and other work or child-related expenses. These expenses are built into the Child Support Computation Worksheet and allocated in accordance with the parties’ respective percentage of income. For example, if the mother carried insurance at a cost of $200 per month and receives child support,her monthly support would increase by $126 assuming the same percentages as the example above. This results in the mother paying 36% of the cost of insurance and the father paying 64% of the cost of insurance.
One of the expenses that can have the biggest impact on child support is childcare, especially for younger children. There are essentially two ways to allocate these costs. First, these expenses can be worked into the Child Support Computation Worksheet and allocated in a manner similar to the cost of insurance above. This is often the simplest of the two methods as it leaves only one party responsible for the cost of daycare and each parent’s portion of the expenses is accounted for in the child support figures. The downside to this method is that expenses change between school year and summer childcare, or in the case of small children, when they move classrooms as they get older, often the daycare costs decrease because the student to teacher ratio gets larger as less supervision is required. The second way to allocate these costs is to simply have each parent pay their respective percentage directly to the childcare provider. The disadvantage to this method is that it puts the childcare provider in the middle of any disputes and can frequently lead to the family being asked to leave the childcare program. As a result, this will only work if the parents can communicate and cooperate with one another.
The Child Support Calculation Worksheet will produce a specific amount that represents the child support payable to the other parent; however, courts do have discretion to deviate from this amount. In order to deviate from the guidelines, the court must state its reason for the deviation. In addition, any deviation must be because the child support guidelines are unfair to one parent, inappropriate, or the amount ordered would not be in the best interests of the child[ren]. The most common reason for deviation is when the parent ordered to pay child support has been awarded parenting time in excess of the standard parenting order for the county in which the matter is heard. The second most common reason for deviation is due to extraordinary travel expenses, which is typically reserved for cases where airfare or other significant travel expenses are necessary for the non-residential parent to exercise his or her visitation.
Other common child support issues are paternity. There is a presumption of paternity when a child is born during a marriage, however, this presumption can be challenged with a court-ordered paternity test. In addition, there is no requirement for the parents to be, or ever have been, married, nor can the parent ordered to pay waive their parental rights and escape a child support obligation. The only way to “sign away rights” is when a third party, usually a stepparent, adopts the child; the adoption accepts the obligation to support the child and relieves the biological parent.
There are plenty of other factors that go into calculating child support, but since all cases are unique, you want to make sure you explore all your options to ensure the correct amount is ordered.