Tag Archives: Child Support

Can a child get SSI in Ohio?

Can a Child Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits?

Many parents and guardians with children under the age of 18 wonder whether their children could qualify for Social Security disability benefits.  Disabled children under the age of 18 can qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) program, which is administered by the Social Security Administration, depending on the nature of their disabilities, on their income, and on the resources available to them. According to 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(i), a child under the age of 18 is disabled if the child “has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”  In simpler language, a “disability” for purposes of SSI benefits must be a very serious medical condition that will last for at least one year.  For example, a child who suffers from partial or total paralysis, or from mental retardation, could qualify for SSI benefits.  A child with a broken leg, however, would likely not qualify.

In addition to satisfying the definition of “disabled,” a child may not earn more than a certain amount from employment.  42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(C)(ii) states that a child under the age of 18 who “engages in substantial gainful activity” does not satisfy the definition of “disabled.”  This means that a child who is employed and who earns more than $1,000.00 per month from employment would not qualify for SSI benefits in 2011 (the limit on a child’s total monthly income changes every year).  At the same time, a child who is unemployed, or who is employed but earns less than $1,000.00 per month, could qualify.

Further, a determination of a child’s eligibility for SSI benefits also involves the income of the child’s parents or guardians.  This part of the eligibility determination can be relatively complicated, but in short, a child whose parents or guardians could be described as among the working poor would probably qualify, whereas a child whose parents could be described as among the middle or upper class would probably not qualify (or would qualify for only minimal benefits).

Normally, a determination of eligibility can take three to five months.  Children with certain conditions, however, can qualify for immediate benefit payments while the determination is pending.  Examples of conditions that would qualify a child to receive immediate payments include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, HIV infection, muscular dystrophy, total blindness and total deafness.

Although the Social Security Administration publishes a number of self-help guides regarding the eligibility of children for SSI benefits, the process of applying for SSI benefits can be complex.  If you have questions about whether your child could be eligible to receive benefits, then you should consider a free consultation with an attorney focusing in Social Security law.

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Can the Child choose which Parent they want to live with in Ohio?

It is one of the most common myths that people maintain when it comes to child custody: Once a child reaches a certain age, that child can choose which parent to live with, right? Well, that is actually incorrect. However, this myth is based in history and actually grounded is truth. Under former Ohio law, once a child attained the age of 12 years old,child_support_ohio_termination that child had the power to choose which parent was to be deemed the residential parent and legal custodian of that child. However, under current Ohio law, minor children no longer have the ability to choose which parent they want to live with on a permanent basis. In other words, when the Court issues its final divorce decree which, among other things, allocates parental rights and responsibilities, it is not the child that determines which parent is to be the residential parent, even if that child is a teenager. Ohio law treats a 14 year old in the same manner as a 4 year old when it comes to determining which parent with be designated as the residential parent. And, like almost all issues involving minor children, the determination is guided by what is in the “best interest of the child”.

So, divorcing parents, remember that your child will not be choosing for or against you when it comes to custody issues. Rather, the Court will decide and you need to focus your energy on convincing the Court that it would be in the best interest of the child to live with you … do not work on convincing the child that he or she should choose you. Which, in truth, is not fair to the child anyway.

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Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of Disability ALJ Decisions

Senate Committee Reveals Trouble with the Quality of ALJ Decisions

A recent article in the Washington Times discussed the increasing stress that the Social Security Disability system is operating under and how that stress has led to troubling problems affecting millions of Americans.

Investigators working for a Senate subcommittee examined hundreds of cases in which disability benefits were approved and found that those making the decisions frequently ignored warning signs such as incomplete or inconsistent information. Senators have said this review demonstrates the need for an overhaul of the existing system. One Senator said that the decisions from some administrative law judges (ALJs) were so bad that the final verdict seemed almost entirely arbitrary.

Though the first phase of this investigation involved looking over applications that were approved but should not have been, the Senate committee says it will next turn its attention to those cases that were denied and may have been denied wrongfully. Those in charge say they worry that they will discover the system is not helping many of the people it was designed to protect.

For its part, the Social Security Administration says it has work to do to fix problems in the system. However, they claim that outlier decisions occur far less often than they used to and the decisions of many ALJs are affirmed with much more regularity then ever before.

That may sound good, but problems still abound. The massive report showcased one ALJ from Oklahoma who has issued more than 1,000 decisions each year since 2006. Judge W. Howard O’Bryan Jr. peaked in 2008 with 1,846 decisions and regularly approved 90 percent or more of the claims. This compares to an average ALJ approval rate of about 60 percent. The investigation revealed that his decisions were notable only for their “poor quality” and how Judge O’Bryan often regurgitated the same boilerplate language in each case decision.

One case that apparently prompted the investigation, involved a man living as an adult “baby,” meaning he slept in an adult-sized crib and wore diapers. The man was collecting disability benefits despite having demonstrated carpentry skills and his ability to work with a reality TV show and a website for other adult “babies.”

The case of the adult “baby” highlighted another problem according to the Senate subcommittee and that is how out of date the list of jobs given to ALJs are. The list has not been updated since the 1970s and excludes many computer-related jobs that some people (possibly other adult “babies”) with disabilities might be able to perform.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Does my income affect my child’s ability to qualify for Social Security Benefits?

How much income can parents have before their children no longer qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

Disabled children can qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) program, which is administered by the Social Security Administration, depending: (1) on the nature of their disabilities; (2) on how much income they have (if any); and (3) on their available resources. Children’s “available resources” include the income (and assets) of their parents and guardians. Therefore, many parents and guardians of disabled children wonder how much income they can have before their children no longer qualify for SSI benefits.

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) defines a child as someone who is not married; is not head of a household; and is under age 18, or is under age 22 and regularly attending school. This discussion only applies to SSI benefits for disabled children, as the SSA defines the terms “disabled” and “children.”

1. Nature of disability. According to the definition established by the applicable laws and regulations, a child is “disabled” if the child “has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which results in marked and severe functional limitations, and which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” In other words, a child is disabled for purposes of SSI benefits if the child has a very serious medical condition that will last (or has lasted) for at least one year. For example, a child who suffers from cystic fibrosis could qualify for SSI benefits. A child with a minor broken leg, but who did not otherwise have a serious medical condition, would probably not qualify.

2. Child’s income (if any). In terms of a child’s income, a child may not earn more than $1,000.00 per month from employment and still qualify to receive SSI benefits (in 2011; the limit on a child’s total monthly income changes every year). On the other hand, a child who is unemployed, or who is employed but earns less than $1,000.00 per month (in 2011), would meet the income limit.

3. Income and resources (i.e. assets) of parents or guardians. The determination of a child’s eligibility to receive SSI benefits also takes into account

Income, in this context, comes in two varieties: “earned income” and “unearned income.” Earned income consists of “wages from employment, net earnings from self-employment, certain royalties and honoraria, and sheltered workshop payments.” Unearned income consists of money received from other sources, “such as Social Security benefits, pensions, state disability payments, unemployment benefits, interest income, and cash from friends and relatives.” Some income is exempt and does not count toward the applicable limits. The following chart illustrates the income limits currently applicable in many (but not all) circumstances.

Number of Ineligible Children in Household

All Income is Earned

All Income is Unearned

One Parent in Household

Two Parents in Household

One Parent in Household

Two Parents in Household

0

$2,821

$3,495

$1,388

$1,725

1

$3,158

$3,832

$1,725

$2,062

2

$3,495

$4,169

$2,062

$2,399

3

$3,832

$4,506

$2,399

$2,736

4

$4,169

$4,843

$2,736

$3,073

5

$4,506

$5,180

$3,073

$3,410

6

$4,843

%5,517

$3,410

$3,747

By “resources,” the SSA essentially means property. For instance, resources include bank accounts, cash, life insurance, real estate, stocks, U.S. savings bonds, vehicles and other property belonging to a child’s parents or guardians that could be exchanged for cash and used for food or shelter. Some resources, such as a home, household goods and personal effects, and money in pension funds, are exempt and do not count toward the applicable limits. Currently, the applicable resource limit (for non-exempt resources) is $2,000 for a single parent or guardian, and $3,000.00 for a couple.

To summarize: A disabled child’s eligibility for SSI benefits depends upon the nature of the child’s disability, the amount of income that the child earns (if any), and the income and resources available to the child—including resources available through parents and guardians. Regarding the resources of parents and guardians, the limits vary from case to case depending on the circumstances. The income limits listed in the foregoing chart, and the resource limits discussed above, might or might not apply in a specific situation because of the many rules and regulations, as well as exemptions, that govern SSI eligibility for disabled children. If you are the parent or guardian of a disabled child and would like to learn more about SSI eligibility, then talk with a lawyer with experience dealing with Social Security issues.

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Will my income tax refund be taken if I file bankruptcy?

When considering personal bankruptcy, many clients ask, “Will my income tax refund be taken?” The answer to that question is that, “it depends”, regardless of whether you are filing an Ohio Chapter 7 bankruptcy or an Ohio Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Whether an individual’s income tax refund becomes a part of the bankruptcy estate depends on when the bankruptcy is filed with the United States Bankruptcy Court.  For instance, if an individual files bankruptcy after that individual has both filed and received their income tax refund, it is highly unlikely that their income tax refund will become a part of the bankruptcy estate.  However, if a person files for bankruptcy shortly before or shortly after filing their income tax return, then it is very likely that a person’s income tax refund will become part of the bankruptcy estate.  This is because the person is yet to have received their income tax refund, and that money can be used to pay off the person’s existing creditors.

However, if you happen to file your income tax refund in or around the same time that you file for bankruptcy that does not necessarily mean that your entire income tax refund will become a part of the bankruptcy estate for the distribution to your creditors.  In Ohio, portions of your income tax refund attributed to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit cannot become part of the bankruptcy estate. O.R.C. 2329.66(A)(9)(g).  For instance, if you have an income tax refund for $4000, and $2500 is attributed to the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, then the most that can become part of the bankruptcy estate is $1500.

It is best to address a qualified bankruptcy attorney with specific questions about the implications of filing for bankruptcy shortly after filing and/or receiving your income tax refund.  Your bankruptcy lawyer can help you determine the timing that will be best for you.  It is important to note, that you should never spend your income tax refund after it has been determined that it will become a part of the bankruptcy estate.  This can result in serious consequences, such as your bankruptcy being denied.

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