SKILLED IN CHILD SUPPORT CASES
Every parent has a legal obligation to financially support their children. This obligation exists regardless of whether the parent wants to be involved in their children’s lives. In Ohio, the non-custodial parent typically pays a sum of money each month to the custodial parent in child support.
At Groth & Associates, we have helped men and women in child support proceedings, whether as part of a divorce, a paternity suit, or a modification. Below, our Toledo child support lawyer lays out what you need to know.
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ESTABLISHING PATERNITY BEFORE SEEKING CHILD SUPPORT
A man cannot be required to pay child support until he is the legal father of the child. If two people were married, then the husband will be presumed to be the father of any children born during the marriage.
Paternity issues often arise when men and women are not married but have a child together. Before the mother can seek child support, however, she needs to establish paternity. Men are free to voluntarily declare their paternity, but if they don’t, then a woman needs to either file suit or contact the local child support agency. A DNA test can prove with certainty whether a man is a child’s father.
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CALCULATING CHILD SUPPORT
Child support calculations begin by looking at each parent’s income from all sources and then allowing for certain deductions, such as other children the parent is supporting. If a parent is artificially suppressing his income—say, by quitting his job as a dentist and working as a bartender—a judge can decide how much the parent would reasonably earn if he was trying.
The judge then looks at a chart to identify the combined support obligation. This is the amount of money that Ohio has estimated it costs to support the child. Parents will usually pay a share-based upon their share of income. So if a father makes twice as much as the mother, he will be responsible for twice as much.
A judge can also add on other expenses, such as the cost of health insurance, daycare, or educational needs. These will be added to the basic support obligation and divided between the parents.
If parents have a combined income in excess of $300,000, then the court does not have to use the guidelines. High net-worth individuals should meet with an attorney, because it is very possible that a judge will order an extraordinary amount of child support in these situations, and it is important that parents not pay too much.
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DEVIATING FROM THE GUIDELINES
Sometimes, a judge will depart from the child support guidelines. This is called a “deviation.” There are many reasons why a judge would deviate, such as:
- The non-custodial parent has more overnights with the children. A judge can order a deviation if the parent has more than 90 overnights and an additional deviation if parenting time exceeds 147 overnights in a year.
- The child has extraordinary expenses, perhaps because he or she is disabled and has unusual medical and educational needs.
Judges are empowered to deviate if they believe there are reasonable reasons to do so. This gives them enormous power to order more or less child support than what the guidelines require.
MODIFYING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
Once judges set a child support order, they are not anxious to revisit it. Instead, a judge will only take another look at the order if there is a good reason to. Typically, judges will review a child support order every 3 years and can adjust the amount of child support based on changes in each parent’s incomes as well as the needs of the child.
However, you are not required to wait 36 months before requesting a modification. If there has been a change in your financial circumstances beyond your control, you can request a modification. Changes include being laid off for at least 30 days or suffering at least a 30% drop in income for at least 6 months.
These circumstances truly must be beyond your control. Getting fired from a job, or quitting one, is not generally a reason to request a modification.
Either parent can request modification, to either increase the amount of child support or lower it. Consult an attorney to review when is the best time to file a request.
ENFORCING A CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
Getting the order is only half the battle for custodial parents. If the other parent fails to pay, then additional steps are necessary to obtain the money owed.
Fortunately, unpaid child support accrues and does not disappear, even if the non-custodial parent lost a job. Only a judge can modify child support, so parents who simply choose not to pay are not wiping out their debts. These arrearages accumulate, along with interest.
At our firm, we have used different techniques for getting paid:
- Seizing an income tax refund
- Garnishing the parent’s wages
- Having the parent’s driver’s license suspended
Different strategies have different benefits. For example, asking for a license suspension could make it harder for your ex to get to work, so that could be counterproductive unless you are 100% sure he or she has the money to pay child support.
Adopting a child from a different country presents unique challenges. We can help parents think through whether an international adoption is even something they want to proceed with or whether a domestic adoption might be preferable.
Some of the challenges involved with international adoption include:
- Having to comply with a foreign country’s rules regarding adoption, which could be onerous.
- Filling out extensive amounts of paperwork.
- Visiting the child’s home country to see the child, sometimes multiple times, before being able to leave with him or her. These visits can require extended absences from work.
International adoptions can also be very expensive. If you choose this option, you want to do it right the first time, and Groth & Associates will shepherd you through the entire process.
TERMINATING CHILD SUPPORT
Typically, child support ends when a child reaches 18 and has graduated from high school. Both must occur. If your child is 18 but still in high school, you will probably have to continue to pay child support. By contrast, if your child is 18 and graduates, you can request that child support be terminated.
Child support does not terminate automatically, and many parents must take steps to notify the court that their child is now an adult.
There are other situations in which child support ends, such as the child’s marriage or enlistment in the military. Talk with an attorney to review your specific case.
THE ADVICE YOU NEED FROM A TRUSTED TOLEDO CHILD SUPPORT LAWYER
Child support disputes can be difficult to resolve. Often, those parents who represent themselves get the short end of the stick.
To get the legal representation you need, contact Groth & Associates. Our lawyers have helped many men and women obtain child support, seek a modification, or enforce an existing order. There is no reason to delay, so call us to schedule a free consultation.