“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
— Nelson Mandela
August is child support awareness month and the Delaware County Child Support Enforcement Agency, like agencies around the country, is working to educate and inform the public and improve methods of collection and enforcement.
The United States Congress created the Child Support Enforcement system in 1974, noting that the financial support of children should not be dependent upon the marital status of the children’s parents. Changes in American society had triggered the need for a more formal, organized system of child support collection. Individual states already had the power to create their own support systems, but the Congressional action gave them an interstate framework to collect support anywhere in the nation. State agencies work together through agreements that permit orders to be transferred from state to state and encourage states to cooperate in order to better handle enforcement duties. Individual counties in Ohio communicate through SETS- the Support Enforcement Tracking System. SETS assigns a number to every child support case and allows for a case manager anywhere in the state to track payment history and all other pertinent information connected to a case.
Setting up a new child support order can happen through the Child Support Enforcement Agency by way of an administrative order, or by a court through a formal hearing process. The amount of a support order is calculated using a standard state child support guideline and is based upon a list of factors including the parents’ income, the number of children covered by the order, and the cost of medical insurance and day care.
That child support calculation system is about to change in Ohio- for the first time in 26 years. Governor Kasich signed a bill last month that charges the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services with calculating new child support guidelines for the first time since 1992. Those 1992 tables were based on 1980s income figures. The new guidelines will take effect next spring. In addition to new income calculations, the new law also increases the minimum support order from $50 to $80, provides a buffer for low wage earners to make sure their support payments don’t exceed their income, and makes several changes to how support is calculated in shared parenting situations, and when one parent provides health insurance or day care.
There are a variety of ways by which child support can be collected. The law states a preference for regular payment of support through wage or bank withholdings. Payments made directly from one person to another are not counted as child support since those payments prevent the support enforcement agency and the court from tracking whether payments have been made. Child support is not related to or contingent upon parenting time and the fact that visits are not occurring does not excuse a parent from paying support.
There are multiple enforcement methods available in child support cases. Civil actions can be brought by the child support agency and may result in the imposition of jail sentences
from contempt findings; professional and drivers’ license suspensions can be imposed for failure to pay; misdemeanor and felony level criminal offenses can be filed and can carry up to six months incarceration in a local jail or up to a year in a state penitentiary.
The Delaware County Child Support Enforcement Agency is located on the third floor of the Rutherford B. Hayes Administration Building at 140 N. Sandusky Street. More information about the establishment, modification and enforcement of support can be found on their website. Go to the Delaware County website at https://childsupport.co.delaware.oh.us.
David Hejmanowski is judge of the Probate/Juvenile Division of the Delaware County Delaware County Court of Common Pleas and vice president of the Board of Trustees of the Central Ohio Symphony.