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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




































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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What are Legally Sufficient grounds for Divorce in Ohio?

ohio_divorce_reasonsDivorce is purely a matter of statute and each of the acceptable grounds for divorce in Ohio are fixed by statute. This means that you and your spouse cannot simply list whatever reasons you personally have for wanting the divorce in your Pro Se complaint and have the Court accept them. Rather, your complaint for divorce must list one or more legally sufficient grounds, enumerated under the applicable statute, and put on evidence of that ground at the hearing.

So, what are legally sufficient grounds in Ohio? Generally, any of the following will suffice:

1. Either party entering into a bigamous marriage

2. Willful absence of the adverse party for one year

3. Adultery (obviously!)

4. Extreme cruelty (carefully defined under statute)

5. Fraudulent contract (marriage is a contract, after all)

6. Any gross neglect of marital duty

7. Habitual drunkenness

8. Imprisonment of the adverse party in a state or federal prison when the petition is filed with the Court

9. Procurement of a divorce outside Ohio, by a husband or wife, by virtue of which the party who procured it is released from the obligations of the marriage, while such obligations remain binding upon the other party

10. On the application of either party, when husband and wife have, without interruption for one year, lived separate and apart without cohabitation

So there you go, now you know that “he is a jerk” will not suffice as legally sufficient grounds to state in your complaint. You must plead and prove one of statutorily enumerated grounds established by the Ohio Legislature to obtain a divorce.

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Commonly asked Social Security Disability / SSI questions.

There are often basic questions about Social Security Disability benefits, so we have decided to answer just a few of them here.  filingbenefitsclaim

Q 1. What does it cost to hire an attorney for my SSD / SSI claim?

A 1. Nothing. Our firm does all SSD cases on a contingency basis. We take a percentage or pre-determined amount (determined under Statutes) of the back-pay you are awarded. If you are not granted SSD benefits, then we do not collect anything.

Q 2. Is there a difference between SSD and SSI benefits?

A 2. Yes. SSI is usually reserved for those individuals with very low incomes, and/or those that have not worked long enough in order to earn SSD benefits.

Q 3. How do I prove SSD eligibility if I do not have the money to visit a doctor?

A 3. This is one of the hardest issues for SSD applicants. On the one hand they are not working because they are disabled, and therefore, they do not have health insurance that allows them to visit a doctor. On the other hand, it is harder to prove SSD eligibility without documentation from treating physicians. Those that believe that they are eligible for SSD benefits ought to see a doctor as much as they can in order to build the strongest case. However, if you previously worked and had health insurance which allowed you to visit a doctor, we can use those records to prove your case. Check with our office and we will help determine the best course of action you should take.

Q 4. How long does it take to start receiving my benefits?

A 4. This is the hardest part for many applicants to understand. The SS offices are very overworked and any given case can take 1-2 years. However, if you never start the process, you will never receive benefits. it is better to get benefits in 1-2 years than not at all. You need to come into our office ASAP so that we can begin the process on your behalf.

Q 5. Do I have to be completely disabled in order to receive SSD benefits? NO and YES. No, you do not have to be completely disabled in the ordinary sense of that word. Meaning, you do not have to be bed-ridden or need round-the-clock assistance. However, you need to be completely disabled as that term is used in the federal Statutes. The definition in the federal statutes is much more broad and the vast majority of the people who can do normal daily activities are eligible for SSD benefits.

We hope this answers some basic questions for now. We will post more common questions and answers in the near future.  Feel free to contact us through the online contact form or call our office at 937-432-9775 for an appointment to discuss your claim.

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Easiest way to terminate the marriage when one spouse no longer lives in Ohio | Dissolution vs. Divorce

divorce_movingThe Courts of Ohio have jurisdiction to terminate the marriage of any Ohio resident that has lived in the state for at least six months.  This is the case even if the marriage took place in another state.   The termination can be by way of Divorce, Dissolution or annulment (in rare circumstances).  Often, couples that have separated and are living apart want to terminate the marriage and have already come to an agreement on all relevant issues (property division, child custody, spousal support, etc).  In other words, the parties agree to go their separate ways and really do not want (or have anything) to fight over.

Frequently, when the parties agree on all material issues, the best mechanism for terminating the marriage is a dissolution.  When parties petition the Court for a dissolution, they submit a separation agreement to the Court along with the petition.  Both parties later appear in court for a brief hearing where they affirm their desire to dissolve the marriage and to declare their agreement on all material issues, as is evidence by the signed separation agreement.  This seems easy enough, right?  Well, maybe not.

A dissolution will not work when one of the parties to the marriage is unable to appear in Court here in Ohio.   At the heart of the dissolution is the idea of agreement by the parties, and if one of the parties does not appear in court to formally declare their agreement, the Court cannot terminate the marriage. In this scenario, the parties should look into an “uncontested divorce.”

Generally speaking, an uncontested divorce is where one party files a complaint for divorce and the other spouse fails to file any responsive pleading or otherwise appear and defend the action.  The Court can terminate the marriage by simply having the plaintiff-spouse testify (along with one other witness to corroborate the testimony) and the defendant-spouse need not appear at all.  Although this seems rather intuitive, the real benefit of an uncontested divorce is that the parties can still enter into a separation agreement, just as in a dissolution, and submit it to the court for incorporation into the final divorce decree.

So, whenever two spouses reside far apart, they should consider an uncontested divorce action to save the absent spouse travel expenses.  But, remember that this will only work when both spouses are in agreement on the division of property, child custody, spousal support, etc.

Brought to you by the Ohio law offices of Morrison & Nicholson.  Call today for a free consultation (937) 432 – 9775.

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