If you live in Ohio, are divorced, and are subject to a child support order, there's something you need to think about if you're contemplating remarriage. Will your remarriage affect support obligations? This article should give you some insight into that subject. If you have questions after reading this article, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Guidelines, enacted by the legislature, control child support awards in Ohio. The basic elements determining the total support amount are the parents' combined income, and the number of children involved. Other items considered are health care coverage for the children and employment-related child care costs.
For the purpose of calculating support, income includes, but is not limited to:
"Income" excludes any income earned by a parent's new spouse.
In calculating support, the guidelines allow a number of deductions from income, including one for a parent's other minor children (who are not the subject of the child support order) living with the parent.
You can find more information about the child support guidelines at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Office of Child Support website.
In addition to a parent's actual income, a court may attribute or "impute" potential income to a parent, if it determines that the parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. In deciding whether to do this, and in what amount, the court looks at certain criteria, including:
It's a rebuttable presumption that a child support award under the guidelines is correct. "Rebuttable" means that there are circumstances in which the court can find that using the guidelines may be unjust or inappropriate, and would not be in the best interest of the child.
The child support guidelines present a number of factors a court may consider in deciding whether to deviate from the guidelines. Some of these are:
Can a child support order ever be changed? Absolutely. But in order to succeed, the party requesting the modification must prove that there's been a substantial change in circumstances since the last support order was entered. This change must be one that wasn't contemplated when the first order was entered.
More information on modifying a child support order in Ohio can be found at the Office of Child Support website.
The question now is, does remarriage constitute a change of circumstances that would justify modifying a child support order?
Unlike some other states, Ohio doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to the issue of remarriage and child support. There's an Ohio law that specifically states that the remarriage of a nonresidential parent (the parent with whom the child doesn't primarily reside) may justify a modification of child support. And although this particular law doesn't mention the residential (custodial) parent, an Ohio court case holds that the remarriage of the custodial parent may also be considered in determining the need for child support. What's the basis for this thinking?
Even though a new spouse's income is excluded from the initial calculation of child support under the guidelines, that doesn't mean it's irrelevant in a support order modification request. Notice that "benefits that either parent receives from remarriage" is one of the factors that can be considered regarding deviating from the support guidelines. When you remarry, in all probability your new spouse is contributing to the household expenses, such as mortgage or rent, utilities and groceries. This leads to you having more income available for child support.
A New Child From a Remarriage Can Be a Modification Factor
If remarriage results in a new child, can a court consider this in deciding whether to modify a child support order? Yes. In the past, under what is known as common law, a new child wouldn't have had an effect on child support. Your primary obligation was to the children of your prior relationship. However, that theory is falling out of favor. And, indeed, Ohio law acknowledges the need to provide for new children.
The guidelines provide an example of this, permitting an income deduction for a parent's other minor children, when calculating child support. Likewise, in considering deviating from the guidelines, the factors a court can consider include a parent's responsibility for the support of other individuals, including minor children. And Ohio case law holds that remarriage and its new obligations, including a new child, may be taken into account by the court when deciding a child support modification request.
Keep in mind that a court can consider the aspects of remarriage discussed above, in making its support modification decision. These factors don't automatically result in a child support order being changed.
The topic of remarriage and child support in Ohio is a complicated one. This article is only meant to provide an overview of the issues involved. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to consult a qualified family law attorney with any questions you may have.