By Chris Beers...Massillion Independant Staff Writer...Massillion, Ohio
At least one major change and a possible increase in child support payments are expected when Ohio's Child Support Guidelines are revisited this year.
The guidelines, which have been in place since the 1980s', set the boundaries for all of the state's child support orders from the family court judges.
They are criticized for inequities and loopholes by divorced moms and dads alik, as well as those who enforce them.
By federal law, the Legislature is required to review the Child Support Guidelines every four years and to make changes they deem fit.
Two years ago, the Legislature set up a 34 member commission to recommendations are scheduled to be delivered to the Legislature at the end of March and are expected to be voted on by July.
Kim Newsome-Buckley, director of the Licking County Child Support Enforcement Agency, is a member of the commission. She says the commission has recommended one major and several minor changes to the current Child Support Guidelines.
"The most important recommendation is a parenting time adjustment to child support orders," said Buckley. "It's the states first attempt at encouraging non-residential parents to remain a part of their children's lives. It could give the non-residential parent a financial reason to see their kids."
According to Buckley, the commission's recommendation is to allow percentage adjustments to child support orders based on the amount of time a child spends on overnight visites with the non-custodial parent.
Buckley said the recommendation calls for child support adjustments to go as high as 40% if the non-custodial parent has the children at least 50% of the time.
Buckley said the standard visitation orders of every other weekend and several weeks in the summertime normally constitute about 30% of parenting time. She said that would result in a 15% adjustment to the child support orders under the new recommendations.
"There was a lot of discussion and a lot of give-and-take in this area," said Buckley. "We reccommend that before a parenting-time adjustment would be approved, the non-residential parent had to be current, without any arrears, in the child support payments over the previous six months.
"We a;so recommended a new shared-parenting worksheet that actually works in a shared=parenting situation." added Buckley. "And we recommended an increase in the standard schedule due to an increace in the cost of living over the last several years. Some non-custodial parents will actually be forced to pay more.
"We are trying to get away from the 'deadbeat dad' scenerio. There are a lot of people who pay their child support on time. The news reports make it seem like every non-residential parent is a 'deadbeat' parent. That is simply not the case."
Judge Cheryl Karner of Cuyahoga County is the president of the Ohio Domestic Relations Judges and also a member of the Child Support Guidelines Commission.
"The current guidelines take into account the cost of raising a child in one home." Karner said. "It does not take into account the cost of raising that child in two different himes. I don't blame the dads for being upset. The current guidelines put a tremendous financial burden upon the non-custodial parent."
"Our recommendation to the Legislature is to give the non-custodial parents credit for the time the children spend in their homes." added Karner. "The recommendation is for the time-sharing plan to be based on overnight visitations, not hour by hour calculations.
"Fathers do have a legitimate gripe when we calculate child support on the basis of raising children in one home. instead of two homes. All of us sgree that the courts should try to get both parents fully involved in their childrens lives, but that just isn't happening in Ohio.
"However, that doesn't mean equal time with the children. Parents and the courts have to be flexible to have the best interest of the children at heart.