Outdated and overdue, lawmakers take on child support in Ohio

One of the bills could lessen the financial burden of child support, with the idea that low-income people would be more likely to pay

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COLUMBUS (WKBN) – One in three children in Ohio is involved in the child support program and according to experts, some of it is outdated and not benefiting children as well as it could be.

Over the past few years, efforts to resolve these issues have failed at the Statehouse. This general assembly, lawmakers are taking another run at updating something that has not changed for over two decades.

The last time the state changed the way child support was determined or enforced was in 1992 — 25 years ago. At that time, they decided to use calculations based on economic data collected between 1980 and 1986.

Think back to that time — how much did things cost?

Child support is determined by how much it costs to raise a child and for more than 20 years, it’s been calculated using outdated data.

The method for the calculations is also flawed, according to Amy Roehrenbeck, the executive director of Ohio Child Support Enforcement Agency Directors Association.

She says the method does not currently take into account the use of credit cards to pay for raising a child, which puts a tremendous burden on low-income earners.

State Senator Bill Beagle is sponsoring a bill that failed in the last general assembly that would change these calculations and method. It would also change who can adjust these things by changing the law from residing in the revised code to being part of the administrative code.

This change would allow the Department of Jobs and Family Services to update the calculations and method without waiting for lawmakers to get a bill passed first.

Senator William Coley also has legislation he has reintroduced this session.

Senate Bill 70 nearly completed its legislative journey last general assembly. It passed the Senate and made it all the way through its House committee. All it needed was to be put up for a vote on the floor of the House, according to Roehrenbeck.

That vote never happened and the bill died as the session came to a close last December.

Roehrenbeck was told the bill wasn’t urgent.

Senate Bill 70 would streamline the administrative functions of child support enforcement.

There are ten major functions it addresses, most of which save families time and money by not forcing them to go to court to resolve issues.

For instance, because of the way the law is currently written, the enforcement agency cannot order a mother to pay child support. It has to go to court and a judge has to do that, all because the law only allows the enforcement agency to order men to pay.

“It is urgent for us,” Roehrenbeck said. “We think that it is high time for us to make these overdue and necessary changes to modernize our child support program.”

She isn’t alone. Senator Beagle called out his fellow lawmakers as well.

“Many of us campaign on not kicking issues down the road and we campaign on making the tough choices, and this is one of those times where we have to make those difficult choices,” he said.

With the changes Beagle’s bill would make, it is possible for some low-income earners to end up being ordered to pay less in child support than they would have been if no changes were made.

Roehrenbeck said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Only 30 percent of people in that low-income category are currently paying their child support.

The thought process is by making it less of a financial burden, they will be more likely to pay.

Because each case has too many variables to estimate how the change would affect things specifically, overall, Roehrenbeck believes the changes will be for the better.

Additionally, none of the changes SB 125 makes would affect anyone who is currently paying child support until their case is up for modification.

SB 125 is up for a possible vote in the Senate committee it was assigned to on Tuesday. SB 70 is scheduled for a hearing in the committee it was assigned to on Wednesday.

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