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Establishing Child Support

Parents owe their biological or adopted children a legal duty of support. This means they must financially support their children. A support order has several components:
  • An order to pay a monetary amount of support,
  • An order to carry accessible private health insurance if the cost is reasonable,
  • An order to pay cash medical support if accessible private health insurance is not available at a reasonable cost,
  • An order to pay health care expenses that are not covered or reimbursed by insurance and are not covered by cash medical support, and
  • An allocation of the right to claim the federal dependency exemption when filing taxes.

A support order can be established two ways, administratively or judicially. The Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court has jurisdiction over the support orders of children whose parents’ marriage has terminated or is in the process of being terminated, and in interstate support cases.

Child support orders are set according to the “Ohio Child Support Guidelines” set forth in Ohio Revised Code §3119.01-3119.27. The Guidelines are legislation passed by the Ohio General Assembly in response to federal law. The use of these guidelines is mandatory for the establishment or modification of all Ohio child support orders.

Child support is computed using Child Support Computation Worksheets and tables (“Basic Child Support Schedule” and the “Cash Medical Support Schedule”) that set forth the economic cost of raising children. The basic cost of raising children, work-and-education-related childcare costs, and the cost of providing health insurance for the children are factored into the computation. The amount computed according to the Worksheet is presumed to be the amount of Child Support that should be paid.

Under appropriate circumstances the Court may “deviate” from the “presumed” amount of Child Support. The burden of proving why a deviation is appropriate rests on the parent seeking the deviation. The Court, but not the CJFS-OCSS, has the power to deviate from the amount computed on the worksheet. The reasons why the Court may deviate from the statutorily computed amount are stated in Ohio Revised Code §3119.23. The amount of the deviation the Court grants, if there is a valid reason to deviate, depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the case.

All support orders must include medical support. Major changes were made in child support law in July 2008 that require the Court and the CJFS-OCSS to order a parent to purchase health insurance to cover the children if the insurance is:
  • private (not publicly funded)
  • primary care services provided through the insurance are accessible to the child, and
  • the cost is reasonable to the parent ordered to purchase it.

"Accessible" means primary care services are available within 30 miles of the residence of the child. Health insurance is also considered accessible if residents in the immediate geographic area customarily travel farther than 30 miles for primary care services or primary care services are only available to the children by public transportation.

The cost is considered reasonable if the contributing cost to the parent who will be ordered to carry coverage does not exceed 5% of the person’s annual gross income. If the cost does exceed 5%, the Court may still order a parent or both parents to buy coverage if one parent asks to carry the higher cost coverage, both parties agree that one or both should carry the higher cost coverage, or if the Court decides it is in the best interest of the children and will not cause undue financial hardship to the person.

Cash Medical Support is an amount of money ordered to be paid, in addition to Child Support, by the parent paying Child Support when there is no accessible private health insurance available at a reasonable cost and the annual gross income of the parent ordered to pay Child Support is at least $16,335.00. The Court will not grant a deviation from the calculated amount of Cash Medical Support.

The parents may agree who should claim the federal tax dependency exemption. If the parents cannot agree, the Court will award the dependency exemption to the parent such that the child’s best interest is furthered.