Category Archives: Family Law
Child Support in Ohio – How can I have the amount adjusted if I can no longer pay the current amount?
Child Support in Ohio is established by statute and is based upon a standard formula. Only in rare cases does the Court deviate from the amount that the formula prescribes for the divorcing couples’ situation (if the divorcing couple makes a lot of money or very little money combined, the Court has the power to ignore the prescribed formula and establish an amount itself). This formula is useful and may be fair at the time of the divorce decree, but many clients want to know what happens if circumstances change such that the amount of child support is too much or too little a few years down the road. For example, maybe the father has lost his job and can no longer pay the amount originally set-down in the divorce decree. Or, say the wife wins the lottery and now has a better financial position than she did when the couple divorced. Well, a child support obligor can ask for an Administrative review of the child support amount (through the Child Support Enforcement Agency) and ask that it be reduced based upon a change of circumstances. Or, the obligor can file a motion with the Court (as a post-decree motion) and ask that the Court modify the amount based upon the change in circumstances. If the Child Support Agency (CSEA) declines the obligor’s request for a modification downward, he can appeal that ruling to the Court afterward. So, in short, if you are a current child support obligor and you feel that based upon a change in circumstances, the amount you are paying is no longer appropriate, there are avenues to pursue where you might have it reduced. Speak with an attorney or contact our firm for a free consultation to determine whether you can have your child support reduced (or increased) and how best to go about it.
We have previously posted on the topic of filing a motion to change custody of minor children from one parent to the other (a motion to “reallocate parental rights and responsibilities”). As was discussed in that post, the petitioning parent that wants to become the custodial parent has the burden to prove that there has been some substantive change in circumstances of the current custodial parent or the minor child (not the petitioning parent’s circumstances). This can be a rather high burden for the petitioning parent to meet, and if the child appears to be doing alright in the current situation, the chances of success are not that great, even if the petitioning parent’s home would be a better destination for the children. Courts are loath to shift the children around after custody has been established, and therefore, a change in circumstances is needed. Once the parent shows that there is such a change, he or she must demonstrate that a change in custodial status would be in the children’s best interest. If the parent cannot first adequately show a change in circumstances, there is no need to even evaluate the children’s best interest.
However, what if the petitioning parent does not want to obtain legal custody, but rather wants to merely increase visitation with the children? Although the motion would still be considered a motion to reallocate parental rights and responsibilities, the standard for modification of the prior Court Order is not as high. The petitioning parent need not show that there is any change in circumstances in order to prevail on a motion to increase parenting time (“Visitation”). Rather, all the petitioning parent must do is demonstrate that increasing visitation is in the child’s best interest. Essentially, a petitioning parent skips straight to the best interest issue, and never has to show that something has changed with the custodial parent or child. Motions to increase parenting time are common and are often granted, considering that increasing visitation would not fundamentally disrupt the children’s life and more contact with a parent is in most cases beneficial to the child.
Brought to you by the Ohio law offices of Morrison & Nicholson. Call today Family Attorney Charles “Bill” Morrison for a free consultation (937)-432–9775.
It can be very confusing as to which court is the proper court to file a motion for alteration of parental rights and responsibilities. Do I file in the Domestic Relations Court? Or, do I file in the Juvenile Court? How are they different? It seems that they both handle child custody issues in Ohio, so which is the right one? Well, the answer is a simple one. If the parents were married and divorced, then the Domestic relations Court will handle all post-decree motions, including those related to child custody, child support and spousal support. However, if the parents were never married, then any original custody determination was made in the Juvenile Court and that Court would handle all subsequent motions related to child custody. Basically, go back to the Court where the original determination was made. If you cannot remember which Court or find your papers, then simply apply the general rule.
If you have never been married to the other parent, and there has never been a Court Order determining child custody, then you would need to file in the Juvenile Court initially.
In Sum: always file in the court that originally issued any order respecting child custody. If there has never been a Court Order respecting child custody and you are not married to the other parent, then file in the Juvenile Court. If you are married but have lived a part for several years and you want a custody determination, then look to the Domestic Relations Court.
If a person wants to take custody of a child that is alleged to be an abused, neglected or dependent child, either with Children Services filing a complaint, or a private party filing a complaint for custody, those prospective custodians must have a home study conducted before they can take the child.
Homestudies may also be conducted when a parent wishes to have custody changed from the original residential parent to him or her. In this instance, the Court may want to learn more about the prospective residence.
Many people get nervous when the issue of a home study is raised, fearing that outsiders will soon be prying into their lives in ways that seem untoward or unfair. However, homestudies are rather pro forma and the items the investigators are interested in are very basic in nature. When Children Services or a private organization conduct a homestudy, they are effectively looking primarily at the following:
1. Is the home structurally sound?
2. Is there adequate room in the home that would allow the custodians to take-in another child?
3. Is the home sanitary and safe in all respects?
4. Who lives in the home? And would any current resident present a danger to this particular child if he or she were to be brought into the home?
While this is not the entire list of factors the investigators will look at (according to the investigators themselves), the truth is that the above list consists of the primary factors the investigators will be interested in. Like most agencies, Children Services is overworked and is constantly having to place children in safe environments and no case can be investigated in the manner it would be in a perfect world. Therefore, when investigators visit a home they are looking for basic and immediate red-flags that would caution against placing the children in this particular home, mostly because the lack of resources prevent the sort of in-depth investigation that all of us would prefer.
As long as the home is safe, sanitary and well equipped to take in another child, the homestudy should be positive in the end.
Under Ohio law, once a parent is designated as the residential and custodial parent, the prefernce is to maintain that person as the custodial parent. The Courts want to avoid a perneial tug-of-war between the parents with the children caught in the middle. Courts do not want to see motion after motion filed by the parents, but would rather have the custody established and settled for the benefit of the children. However, when it is appropriate, a post-decree motion for a reallocation of parental rights should be filed. The issue, then, becomes what must a parent prove in order to gain custody of their children from the other parent.
When the issue of custody is originally litigated during the divorce proceeding, the parents stand on equal footing as to custody and the standard is simply what would be in the “best interest of the child.” The best interest standard is a broad concept with 10 factors listed in the statute for the Court to consider.
The situation changes in the context of a post-decree motion. Unlike when the issue of custody was originally litigated during the divorce, the burden is higher on the petitioner. The parents no longer stand on equal footing as the preference or presumption is to maintain the status quo. For that reason the legal standard is more involved, which are:
1. That there has been a change in circumstances of the residential parent or the child since the original decree was issued (note: a change in circumstances of the non-residential parent does not matter). There must be some change that warrants a reallocation of parental rights and responsibilities. case law has been developed which provides lawyers an idea of what the courts consider to be a substantive change in circumstances.
2. That the change of custody is in the best interest of the child (and the court is again guided by the factors set out in the statute).
3. That any harm to the child by disrupting the status quo will be outweighed by the benefits of the change.
This is a condensed expression of the legal standard, and anyone wishing to have custody altered should consult an attorney, but hopefully it will give our readers an idea of what they must show if they want to pursue custody of their child.
Brought to you by the Ohio law offices of Morrison & Nicholson. Call today for a free consultation (937) 432 – 9775.