In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how child support works in Ohio.
Who Must Pay Child Support in Ohio
Both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children in Ohio. However, one parent typically pays the other based on each parent’s income and other factors.
Ohio courts follow specific guidelines when determining the amount of support and which parent should pay.
It is a child’s right to receive support from both parents. Generally, only the noncustodial parent makes payments. The custodial parent (sometimes called the residential parent) also remains responsible for child support, but the law assumes that this parent spends the required amount directly on the child.
The law works differently when parents split custody, meaning the parents divide the multiple children between them. In that case, the parent with the higher income is the one who makes payments, but only at a rate that makes up the difference between what each parent must provide.
How is Child Support Determined in Ohio?
Child support covers a child’s basic needs such as clothes, food, shelter, educational costs, transportation, entertainment, and childcare. Ohio courts will also include coverage for ordinary and reasonable medical expenses. Still, they will also make a separate order detailing which parent should pay the costs of extraordinary medical and dental expenses.
Both parents must share these costs by law, but the parent earning a higher wage will usually be responsible for a higher percentage of the costs.
To determine how much each parent must pay, courts use the Ohio Child Custody Guidelines. The guidelines use a mathematical formula based on the parents’ combined income and other factors, such as any social security benefits the child receives on behalf of one of the parents. This is known as the income share model.
The court must know both parents’ incomes for the past three years. For child support purposes, income is all earned and unearned income during a calendar year, regardless of whether it is taxable. Royalties, tips, rental income, and severance pay are also included.
After both parents’ gross incomes are determined, deductions are used to determine the adjusted income. Deductions include spousal support paid, union dues, and state and federal income taxes.
A court or state agency can also impute income. This means the agency assigns an amount to a parent who voluntarily works less or not at all unless that parent has a good reason for doing so.
In addition, the court can adjust the guideline amount up or down if doing so would be in the child’s best interest.
You can see the Ohio Basic Support Schedule here.
Does child support cover college education expenses in Ohio?
Ohio has no explicit requirement for child support to cover college expenses. College expense support by the non-custodial parent may be voluntarily agreed to by both parties, making it contractually enforceable.
Can paternity be established or a child support order be established and enforced if the other parent lives in a different state or country?
Contact your county child support enforcement agency when a parent lives in another state. They will be able to help you based on your specific situation.
Child support enforcement agencies work with countries worldwide, and although it is not guaranteed, they may be able to assist you with this type of situation.
My case is in another state. Do I have to travel to that state for hearings?
No, if your local child support enforcement agency (CSEA) is working with the child support agency in the other state on your case, then interstate law prohibits that state from requiring you to travel there for hearings.
If you recently moved to Ohio, but your child support case is still in your old state, you may simply continue to work with the child support agency in the other state.
If you disagree with the child support enforcement agency’s action on your case, you may request a state hearing. To do so, complete the “State Hearing Request” (JFS 04069) that was provided with your notice and submit it to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Read More: Counseling Children Through Divorce
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Ohio?
The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) administrates the child support system. The agency provides the following services:
- Location of non-custodial parents.
- Paternity establishment.
- Establishment and enforcement of child support orders, including medical support.
- Collection and disbursement of support.
- Review and modification of support orders.
It does not provide services related to:
- Custody and visitation
- Establishing or modifying alimony
The Ohio Child Support, Customer Service Portal, is available as a website and mobile application, providing easy, on-demand access to case information.
Once registered, self-service options include:
- Make credit/debit card payments
- Get notified when payments are sent to you
- View your personal, address, employment, health insurance, and support order information
- Get notified when the required address, employment, or health insurance information for you is missing allowing you to report immediate updates
- View and print up to two years of payment information
- Send messages, essential updates, and required documents to your county CSEA
Parents can make support payments in several ways:
- Online using a checking/savings account debit or credit/debit card.
- In person at your county child support enforcement agency (CSEA).
- You can mail support payments to Ohio CSPC at the below address. If you send a support payment, you must include your name, social security number, order number(s), and case number(s) with your payment.
P.O. Box 182372
Columbus, OH 43218-2372
Ohio CSPC accepts personal checks up to $20,000. Support payments greater than $20,000 must be made by certified check.
Non-recurring credit/debit card payments can be made over the phone by calling 1-833-261-5737.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Ohio
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
Anyone may request child support services by completing an “Application for Child Support Services” and submitting it to the local Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA).
You can also call or visit your county CSEA. To find the CSEA in your county, call (800) 686-1556 or get contact information online.
There are two ways to establish an order in Ohio:
- Administratively parents work with CSEA to determine the amount and type of child support for the support order. A court hearing is not needed.
- Judicially parents come to a court hearing where a judge reviews the financial information and decides the amount and type of child support for the support order.
Factors that May Impact Child Support in Ohio
Even though a court must presume that the amount of child support stated in the guidelines is appropriate, you can ask the court to change the amount based on your child’s best interest.
A judge decides whether to deviate from the guidelines based on the following factors:
- the child’s special and unusual needs
- the extraordinary obligations for other minor children
- other court-ordered payments
- extended parenting time or extraordinary costs associated with parenting time
- whether the paying parent obtains additional employment after the court issues a child support order to support a second family
- the child’s financial resources and the earning ability
- the disparity in income between households
- benefits that either parent receives from remarriage or sharing living expenses with another person
- significant in-kind contributions from a parent, such as payment for lessons, sports equipment, schooling, or clothing
- the parents’ separate financial resources and needs
- the parents’ separate standards of living and the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents maintained a single household
- the child’s physical and emotional needs
- the child’s educational needs
- the responsibility of each parent for the support of others
- any other relevant factor per Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3119.23
My ex-spouse has remarried and has another family to support. How will this affect the support that my child is due?
Even though your ex-spouse now has a second family, they still have a responsibility to your family. However, if they have additional biological or adopted children with the new family, the amount of support your ex-spouse pays for your child may be reduced.
Will the guidelines adjust my support amount if I have other children?
Yes, the guidelines include an adjustment for a biological or adopted child you have from another relationship.
Do the guidelines give any credit to a parent paying for childcare?
Yes, the guidelines provide a credit for the childcare expenses necessary to allow a parent to work or for activities related to employment training.
Do the guidelines credit the parent who has to pay health insurance?
Yes, the parent ordered to provide health insurance coverage for a child subject to the child support order receives a credit for the parent’s total out-of-pocket costs of providing the coverage less any subsidy.
If an obligor receives benefits from the Social Security Administration, will these benefits be garnished to pay the obligor’s support order?
It depends on the benefits the obligor receives from the Social Security Administration. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cannot be garnished to pay an obligor’s support order. Social Security Disability (SSD) and Social Security Retirement (SSR) benefits can be garnished to pay an obligor’s support order.
Can they take money out of my VA check for child support?
It depends on the type of VA benefits you receive. The child support enforcement agency will have to send an income withholding notice to the VA. The VA will then have to determine whether your benefits can be garnished for support.
What is a seek work order?
When a parent is unemployed but capable of working, the child support enforcement agency (CSEA) or court may issue a “seek work order.” The order requires the parent to try to get a job or to enroll in a public assistance job readiness program.
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Ohio law requires all child support orders to include a medical support obligation, an order for one or both parents to provide a child’s health insurance coverage, and an order for both parents to share the cost of the child’s remaining medical expenses.
The CSEA is responsible for establishing and enforcing health insurance orders for child support cases when coverage is available and reasonable or expected to become available.
Coverage is considered available and reasonable if a parent can obtain it through their employer or other group health insurance plan.
The CSEA is required to send a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) to the employer of the medical insurance obligor when new or changed employment occurs. The employer must send the NMSN to the health plan administrator in 20 business days unless the employer doesn’t provide insurance. This federally required notice helps obtain health insurance for children with medical support orders.
Establishing paternity is how a biological father becomes the legal father of his child if he and the mother are not married. Paternity can be established anytime before the child turns 23 years old.
In Ohio, if a woman is married at the time of birth or 300 days before birth, the husband is presumed to be the child’s natural father unless paternity is established for the biological father.
If a child’s parents are not married when the child is born, that child does not have a legal father. Paternity must be established to create a legal relationship between a father and child before the father’s name can appear on the birth certificate.
Paternity can be established in one of three ways for unmarried parents in Ohio:
- Completing and signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit
- Genetic testing, followed by an Administrative Order Establishment of Paternity at a local child support enforcement agency
- A court order of paternity
Can CSEA help me find the father of my child?
Yes. The CSEA can help find the non-custodial parent and help identify if the non-custodial parent has an employer or other sources of income and assets.
Multiple agencies and sources are used to locate non-custodial parents and related information, including:
- Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)
- United States Postal Service (USPS)
- Child Support Enforcement Network (CSENet)
- Office of Unemployment Insurance Operations (OUIO)
- ODJFS Office of Child Support, Interstate Central Registry
- Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC)
- Ohio Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics
- Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC)
- Credit Bureaus
- Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)
- Ohio New Hire Employer Directory.
Enforcing Child Support Orders
Whenever a support order is initiated or modified, a general provision requires any parent’s employer to withhold a specified amount to be applied to the child support order. Income withholding is part of a support order and is established when the order is issued.
Income withholding is the best enforcement method to collect child support. This method is mandatory and applies to almost all types of income, not just wages, and can include:
- personal earnings
- workers’ compensation payments
- unemployment compensation benefits
- private or governmental retirement benefits
- disability or sick pay
- insurance proceeds
- lottery prize awards
- any form of trust fund or endowment
- lump-sum payments
- assets in a financial institution
- any other payment in money
Tax Offset is used to collect federal and state tax refunds to satisfy past-due child support arrears.
If a parent falls behind in support payments, there are a variety of measures to collect past-due support, including:
- Credit reporting
- Professional license suspension
- Increase in the amount of income withholding to pay arrears
- If the non-residential parent has no income or assets, the CSEA can get an order requiring the parent to seek work.
- The intercept of Ohio lottery or gambling winnings when a case is in default and specific criteria are met.
If a parent does not comply with a required action and court enforcement becomes necessary, the court can hold the person in contempt. Contempt penalties can increase with each offense and include fines, jail time, or other possible remedies.
Some of the reasons a person can be cited for contempt are:
- Disobeying a judgment or order of the court
- Failure to obey a subpoena or refusal to answer as a witness
- Failure to appear in court as required
- Failure to submit to genetic testing
- Failure to comply with the provisions of a child support order
Child support can also be enforced by criminal statutes, resulting in fines, jail time, or prison.
Federal law also provides for criminal non-support to be prosecuted in some cases. For a misdemeanor federal offense, the non-payment must be willful, the obligation must be unpaid for at least one year or be greater than $5,000, and the offender and the child must reside in different states.
Possible penalties for this offense include imprisonment for up to six months, a fine, and mandatory restitution of the total unpaid support obligation.
Modifying Ohio Child Support Payments
Either parent can ask for a change in a child support order. Typically child support orders can be reviewed every 36 months from the date the order was established or the date of the last review. Some can be reviewed sooner if specific circumstances are met.
A review means that a caseworker looks at both parties’ income information to see if child support should be changed or if health insurance should be added or changed.
An adjustment means an upward or downward change in the amount of child support based on the application of the Ohio guidelines. It also means adding or changing provisions for the child’s health care needs through health insurance.
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are nontaxable. That means that the payor can’t deduct the child support payments and the recipient won’t include them as income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
When Does Child Support End in Ohio?
Child support can terminate for several possible reasons if the child:
- Gets married
- Is emancipated by court order
- Enlists in the armed services
- Gets deported
- Has a change in legal custody
- The child is 18 and no longer attends an accredited high school full-time
- The child is 19, and the court support order does not require the support order to continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday
The CSEA may also terminate a support order when the mother and father of the child marry or re-marry.
The residential parent of a child must notify the CSEA why the support order should terminate. The non-residential parent may notify the CSEA why the support order should be terminated.
A court or administrative child support order can continue to age 19 if the child attends an accredited high school full-time. A court support order may require the order to continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday due to specific facts and circumstances as documented on the court support order (i.e., disability).