Child Support in Ohio

Find out how child support is calculated in Ohio, when judges may deviate from the child support guidelines, and how to get the support amount changed.

By , Legal Editor
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If you're splitting up with your child's other parent (or you were never together), one of your biggest concerns will be whether you'll pay or receive child support—and how much the child support will be. Like all states, Ohio has guidelines that courts or state agencies use to calculate child support and decide which parent will pay.

A few years back, the state made some major changes to the child support guidelines in Ohio law. Those changes affect all support orders established or modified after March 2019. Also, now there's a regular schedule for reviewing and potentially adjusting the support schedules.

The rules in the state's guidelines will apply whether parents agree on child support, a judge sets the amount for them, or Ohio's child support enforcement agency (CSEA) establishes an administrative support order outside of the divorce context. So all Ohio parents who are or might be paying or receiving child support should understand the current rules.

Who Pays Child Support in Ohio?

All parents have a legal obligation to support their children. But Ohio law assumes that parents who have the children living with them most of the time ("the primary residential parents") spend their support obligation directly on the kids. So the noncustodial (or nonresidential) parents are typically the ones who pay child support, even when they have shared parenting.

It works differently with split custody arrangements—when parents who have more than one child divide the kids between them. In this situation, the parent with the higher income pays child support, but only at a rate that makes up the difference between what each parent must provide. Child support is not a punishment for making more money—it simply protects the children's standard of living.

How to Calculate Child Support Under Ohio's Guidelines

Here are the basic steps used in calculating each parent's individual child support obligation under Ohio's guidelines. As we explained above, the noncustodial parent typically pays that amount to the resident parent.

  • Step 1: Make all the allowed adjustments to each parent's annual gross income to come up with their adjusted income.
  • Step 2: Combine both parents' adjusted annual gross income (AGI), then compute each parent's share of that combined total, as a percentage.
  • Step 3: Use Ohio's child support schedule to find the basic support obligation for each parent's AGI, depending on the number of children being supported. The schedule includes a "self-sufficiency reserve" to make sure that low-income parents will have enough money to support themselves. There are special rules for determining the basic support amount when income levels are below the minimum or above the maximum shown on the schedule. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.021 (2022).)
  • Step 4: Using the same chart, find the basic support obligation for both parents' combined AGI. Then, for each parent, multiply that amount by the percentage of their income share.
  • Step 5: The basic child support obligation for each parent will be the result of step 3 or step 4, depending on which is the lower dollar amount.
  • Step 6: Make the allowed adjustments to each parent's basic support obligation.
  • Step 7: Add each parent's share of the required medical support.

You can use the official Ohio Child Support Calculator to get an estimate of the amount of child support you will either owe or receive. The calculator includes the main adjustments allowed in Ohio law. But if you want accurate results, you should understand what goes into the numbers, so that you can gather all the necessary information ahead of time.

Also, be aware that the actual child support order in your case could be different than the amount calculated under the guidelines (more on that below).

What Counts as Income When Calculating Child Support?

To use the guidelines, you need to know both parents' incomes for the past three years. Regardless of whether it's taxable, all earned and unearned income in a calendar year counts, including:

  • salaries, wages, tips, and severance pay
  • commissions, overtime pay, and bonuses (either a three-year average or the actual amount received in the previous year)
  • "self-generated income," including from receipts from self-employment, operating a business, and rents, minus ordinary and necessary business expenses
  • Social Security benefits and pensions
  • interest, trust income, dividends, and annuities, and
  • unemployment, disability, and workers' compensation benefits

Some of the items that are not included in income:

  • child support received for children from other relationships
  • income received by a parent's current spouse (who's not the children's other parent)
  • government assistance that is means-tested (meaning that eligibility is based on income and assets), such as SSI, veterans' benefits, or adoption assistance, and
  • mandatory wage deductions for things like union dues, but not deductions for taxes or retirement.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.01(C)(12) (2022).)

Adjustments to Income

Ohio law allows certain adjustments to income for the purpose of calculating child support, such as:

  • court-ordered spousal support that a parent is actually paying
  • a credit for parents who are supporting other children from different relationships, and
  • out-of-pocket costs for health insurance premiums paid by the parent who's been ordered to provide insurance coverage for the children.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3119.05(B), (C), 3119.30 (2022).)

When Imputed Income Is Included in the Child Support Calculation

Unfortunately some parents try to avoid paying child support by quitting their jobs or working less than they could. Ohio law has a way of dealing with those parents. When a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the child support calculation may include "imputed" income—basically, the amount that parent should be earning in light of things like education, training, experience, and the local job market. Imputed income may also be used in the calculation for any parent who refuses to provide financial information.

But imputed income won't usually be included in some situations, such as when a parent:

  • has made serious and continuing efforts to find a job
  • isn't able to work because of a disability
  • is incarcerated for at least a year, or
  • is receiving "means-tested" public assistance, meaning that eligibility is based on income and assets.

(Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3119.01(C)(17), 3119.05(I), (J) (2022).)

Other Adjustments to Child Support in Ohio

Ohio's child support chart shows only the basic child support obligation based on the parents' adjusted incomes. That basic obligation may be adjusted for various reasons, including:

  • Shared parenting. Ohio's child support guidelines include an automatic 10% reduction in the child support obligation for parents who have their children for at least 90 overnights a year. Beyond this mandatory 10% reduction, judges may decide to order additional adjustments in shared parenting situations. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3119.051, 3119.231 (2022).)
  • Child care costs. As part of the support calculation, both parents will be required to share the costs of child care (in the same proportion as their share of the combined income amount), when it's necessary to allow a parent to work or get employment training. The cost won't include any tax credits or other subsidies, and it may not be more than the maximum statewide average. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.05(P) (2022).)
  • Child's social security benefits. When a child receives benefits on behalf of a parent that aren't means tested (such as Social Security benefits) on behalf of a parent, the amount of those benefits will be subtracted from that parent's support obligation. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.05(O) (2022).)
  • Medical expenses and private education. Judges may issue separate orders requiring parents to pay for their children's private education and other appropriate expenses. When adjusting the basic child support obligation, judges may consider these expenses, as well as the separate orders to pay medical costs (more on that below). (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.05(F) (2022).)

Is There a Minimum Amount of Child Support in Ohio?

As a general rule, Ohio sets a minimum of $80 a month for all the children covered by a child support order. However, an order could be for less than that minimum—or even for zero dollars—in appropriate circumstances, such as when a noncustodial parent has a physical or mental disability. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.06 (2022).)

Medical Support Orders in Ohio

In addition to basic child support, Ohio parents will also be required to pay the following for their children:

  • Medical support. All child support orders must include an additional amount for cash medical support to cover ordinary medical expenses for the children. As of 2022, the amount of the cash medical support is $388.70 per child, but it changes periodically. Judges must also issue separate orders requiring parents to pay for any medical expenses beyond that amount. In both cases, the parents will split the total amount, based on their share of the combined parental income. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3119.01(C)(7), 3119.05(F), 3119.30(C), 3119.302(B) (2022).)
  • Health insurance coverage. All child support orders in Ohio must require health insurance coverage for the child or children. As discussed above, the parent who will be responsible for that coverage will get credit against income for any out-of-pocket costs, not counting tax credits or subsidies. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.30 (2022).)

When the Amount of Child Support May Be Different Than Ohio's Guidelines

If the amount of child support that's calculated under Ohio's guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate—and therefore not in the child's best interests—a judge may order a different amount of support. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.22 (2022).)

Considerations When Deviating from Child Support Guidelines

When judges are deciding whether to order an amount of support that's different than the guidelines calculation, they may consider any relevant factors, including:

  • the children's physical, emotional, and educational needs
  • the standard of living that the children would have enjoyed if their parents had stayed together
  • parents' extraordinary obligations for other children
  • extraordinary costs associated with parenting time, such as travel expenses when exchanging the children between their parents
  • the parents' relative resources and needs
  • benefits that either parent receives from remarriage or sharing living expenses with another person
  • taxes, and
  • a parent's payments for a child's post-secondary expenses.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.23 (2022).)

Parents' Child Support Agreements

Ohio parents may—and often do—agree between themselves on the amount of child support one of them will pay. But a judge must review and approve their agreement before making it a formal support order. And judges won't approve these agreements unless they meet the requirements in the child support guidelines. That means that if parents agree on an amount that's lower than what would be calculated under the guidelines, they'll need to justify the amount as being in the child's best interests.

How to Change the Amount of Child Support in Ohio

Either parent may request a change (modification) in the amount of child support. The judge will modify support if there was a substantial change of circumstances since the order was established or last modified. When a recalculation of support under the current schedule and guidelines results in an amount that's at least 10% higher or lower than the existing support order, that will qualify as a substantial change of circumstances. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.79 (2022).)

You may request an administrative review of your child support order if it's been 36 months since it was issued or last modified, or if you qualify for a review based on certain changed circumstances. If the CSEA conducts a review and neither parent objects to its recommendation, the agency will forward the recommendation and supporting documentation to the court that issued the order. The judge will usually make the recommended changes and modify the support order. (If the existing order was established by the CSEA rather than ordered by the court, the agency will simply make the adjustments itself to the order.)

If either parent requests it, the judge must hold a hearing to decide whether the child support order should be modified and whether the revised amount recommended by the CSEA is appropriate. (Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3119.64, 3119.66 (2022).)

When Does Child Support End in Ohio?

Child support orders in Ohio may end for a number of reasons, including when:

  • the child turns 18 and is no longer attending high school
  • a condition in the support order is met for termination of support after age 19
  • the child gets married or is legally emancipated, or
  • the child enlists in the U.S. Armed Forces.

(Ohio Rev. Code § 3119.88 (2020).)

Getting Help With Child Support

If you're seeking child support when your marriage is ending, you'll simply make the request when you file for divorce or dissolution in Ohio. You may also apply for temporary child support while your case is proceeding.

When you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may ask your local CSEA for child support services. The agency will need to establish the child's legal paternity before it can establish an administrative support order.

The Ohio CSEA may also help with enforcing child support in Ohio.

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