Tag Archives: Custody

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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Are Gay and Lesbian Couples Disadvantaged When Seeking Custody in Ohio?

Gay and lesbian couples are often concerned that their “non-traditional family” will be a disadvantage in custody decisions. While technically this issue is never to be determinative of custody disputes, lest tgay_adoptionhe Court violate the Equal Protection Clause, many gay and lesbian couples feel that their sexual orientation played a role in the ultimate disposition of the Court.   Putting aside potential biases of certain judges, there is at least one case that seems to lend credence to those concerns.  In 2008, the Second Appellant District in Clark County decided a case by the name of Page v. Page in which the Court specifically stated that a homosexual relationship of a mother caused adverse affects to the minor children and warranted a change of custody from that mother to the father.  The facts of that case can be summarized as follows:

Four years after the mother was designated the residential parent of both children, the father filed a motion to modify the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities.  The common pleas trial Court granted the father’s motion and awarded him custody.  The appellate court held that the common pleas court did not err in finding that a change of circumstances occurred as there was evidence that, as a collateral result of the mother’s relationship with her same-sex partner, both children had experienced personality disorders, and therefore, modification of custody was in the children’s best interest. The court determined that the adverse collateral effects of the mother’s relationship with her partner and the partner’s role in the children’s lives showed little room for improvement in the future.

While the Court was careful to say that it was not basing its decision on the simple fact that the mother was a lesbian, but rather the collateral affects that her relationship had on the children, it should give pause to the gay and lesbian couples fighting for custody.  This is something to keep an eye on in the future as more and more gay and lesbian couples fight for custody of one of the partner’s minor children.

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Do Grandparents Have the right to visit their grandchildren in Ohio?

GrandparentGrandkidsUnder current Ohio law, grandparents are permitted to petition the court for visitation rights with respect to their grandchildren.  One would think that such a petition would not be necessary, but, unfortunately, more than we would like to think grandparents are prevented from seeing thier grandchildren.  Quite frequently, grandparents turn to the courts in order to have the opportunity to spend time with their grandchildren. This often comes up as a problem when a couple divorces and whomever is chosen as the residential parent does not want his or her former in-laws to visit the children.  Therefore, grandparents need to be aware that if the Court finds that it is in the child’s best interest to have visitation with his or her grandparents, they do have legal recourse. However, it must be noted that the Court is required to give some special weight to the wishes of the parents as to whether the grandparents are granted the right to certain visitation with the children.

This does not mean that the parents wishes control the Court’s decision, but that if the parents feel strongly against visitation, the court must consider that fact.  But even if the residential parent does not want to allow the visitation, the Court can , and often does, grant the visitation if it is in the best interest of the child.  There are specific stautory provisions that cover the visitation rights of grandparents in Ohio, so you should seek the advice of counsel to determine if your case is worth pursuing.

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Interim custody, attorney fees, spousal, and child support while a divorce case is pending in an Ohio Court

house_divorce_boat It is often the case that a couple that is going through a divorce has one of the spouses move out of the home, leaving the other spouse with primary custody of the children.  The vacating spouse is often the breadwinner of the home, however (after all, he or she has the funds to rent an apartment during the course of the divorce action).  This can leave the remaining spouse in the home with the children and no source of (or not enough) income to continue to run the household and properly care for the children.  So, what is that spouse to do?  One answer is to file a motion with the court requesting that the other spouse be required to pay monthly child support until the final divorce decree is filed with the court.

This temporary child support is but one example of “interim orders” that the court is empowered to issue while the divorce case is proceeding through litigation and until there is a final resolution to the case.  Other interim orders that the court may grant include: (1) Temporary spousal support; (2) award one spouse sole occupancy of the marital residence; (3) award interim attorney fees for one of the spouse to be paid by the other spouse, among others.  Therefore, when you speak with your attorney, be sure to bring up all financial concerns that you may have with filing for divorce and there may be a remedy available.

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Can I Increase Visitation With My Child As Opposed to Filing for Custody?

kideatinghotdogWe 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.

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