May 20, 2015
By Don Hubin, Chair, Executive Committee, National Parents Organization of Ohio
There’s a storm forming on the Ohio horizon. Two pieces of legislation will be introduced soon that directly affect child support. You will need to help us kill the bad parts of these bills. Both will be recycled versions of earlier bills that National Parents Organization helped kill in previous years. We were kindly notified of these bills by the Ohio Child Support Directors Association because they are aware of our record of activism.
The first bill will almost certainly be passed in some form, because federal law requires parts of it. So we must unite to eliminate other parts of the bill that are not mandated. It would shorten the time period for the alleged father to object to an administrative determination of paternity from 30 days to 14 days. Worse, it would start the clock with the issuance of the order, not the receipt of it, or even the date of mailing.
There have been cases in which an order of paternity was issued, the clerk didn’t get around to mailing it for several days, the post office was slowed down by Christmas mail, and “dad” happened to be away for a few days when it did arrive. If this bill would pass, even if a DNA test would show that “dad” is not the real dad, he would be too late to contest the order by the time he even saw it for the first time, and would be on the hook for child support for at least 18 years.
This problem could be at least partially addressed by language that would make the 14-day objection period overrideable if a parent could show that he or she didn’t have reasonable notice. The bill, as currently proposed, does not include such an override option. A better option is to extend the response period to 60 days after mailing. National Parents Organization will need YOU to call your legislator when the time is ripe (we will let you know).
The second bill is even more threatening. It is the newest attempt by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) to change the child support guidelines. These guidelines have not been changed since the early 1990s. There is no doubt that they need to be updated. But the updates needed must promote shared parenting and fairness to both parents. Unfortunately, the legislation proposed by ODJFS does not meet these criteria.
On the positive side, the proposal will significantly address the problem of unreasonable child support obligations imposed on very low income payers. NPO has been pointing out the folly of imposing impossible child support obligations on these fathers for many years. Most in the child support system have listened to this complaint and now agree that this it is counter-productive to do this. That is good.
The second bill also contains a parenting time adjustment (PTA — more parenting time means lower child support) to recognize the payer’s direct expenditures on the children. But the proposed PTA is horribly flawed and, conjoined with the increases proposed in the child support tables will mean that most nonresidential parents will wind up paying more child support, depriving them of much needed funds to provide for the children when they are with them.
The proposed PTA compensates only those expenses by the payer that directly reduce the expenses of the child support recipient. For example, if the kids have a meal at (non-custodial) Dad’s house, that saves (custodial) Mom a little money. The PTA tries to reflect that. But it doesn’t reflect at all the much larger expenses Dad has on housing, transportation, and clothing for the children. Mom’s expenses on these items do count in dividing the funds available for the children; Dad’s do not.
Those of us who want fairness in child support and who want policies that promote, rather than hinder, shared parenting will need to raise their voices to their legislators when this bill is introduced. We will need to send letters to our legislators and make calls to their offices. When the legislation comes up for a hearing, NPO will be there to make the case for reasonable and shared-parenting-friendly changes in Ohio’s child support laws. And we want to face the legislators knowing that they’ve heard from you.
Stay tuned. There will be a call to action soon. And we need your voices in order to be effective.
Contact Don at [email protected]