It is newsworthy that the State of Ohio has taken major “hits” in the job loss category and that our unemployment rate approaches 10%. Recently, General Motors, aka Delphi, has closed most plants in Dayton causing a massive loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector. Then, National Cash Register (NCR) announced the company was moving its headquarters and nearly fifteen hundred (1500) jobs to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. The Dayton Daily News has reported that eleven (11) policemen are slated to “lose their jobs” due to budgetary constraints. Also, businesses associated with supplying the auto industry with parts and services are feeling a financial “crunch” as their major or primary customer was General Motors, aka Delphi.
So, what is a parent (Father or Mother) to do when facing or experiencing a loss of employment?
Scenario #1: Father is the Obligor (parent paying child support to the Mother/Obligee). He was employed by National Cash Register (NCR). He does not want to move to the suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, wherein the new company headquarters shall be located. He does not want to leave the Dayton community as he wants to remain in contact with his children and he has an “upside down” home (which means that he owes more money on the home’s mortgage than the home is presently worth). So, he decides to remain here and seek alternative employment. He has three children and his present child support obligation is $300.00 per month per child for a monthly total of $900.00.
Upon learning of his loss of employment, Father needs to file for unemployment compensation and notify the Child Support Agency of his job loss. Further, Father should seek assistance from counsel in filing an immediate Motion to Decrease Child Support based upon a substantial change in circumstances (his loss of employment). If he chooses to do nothing, the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) can be likened to a “running” taxi cab meter. His support obligation will continue to accrue at the rate of $900.00 per month until it is reduced by a Court Order. The Court can not retroactively reduce an accrued arrearage without the consent of the Obligee. The Court can start the new lower amount from the date the Motion for the support reduction is filed. Bottom line – file the Motion as soon as the job is lost.
Scenario #2: Father is the Obligor (parent paying child support to the Mother/Obligee). He receives notice that his position of employment is going to be terminated within three months or ninety (90) days. He also has a child support obligation of $300.00 per month per child for three children for a total monthly obligation of $900.00.
With the knowledge that his position of employment is going to be terminated or eliminated in the near future, Father has some advance notice that financial circumstances are about to change abruptly. The Obligor, with the information that his employment position is about to be eliminated, has the opportunity to file a Motion to Decrease Child Support and to obtain a hearing before the job loss has occurred. This action provides notice to the Court and to the Obligee that financial circumstances are about to change and that child support obligations must be revised or amended accordingly. Again, as in Scenario #1, the Obligor’s inaction will only create bigger problems such as having to pay an arrearage which has accumulated and a possible contempt action for failure to pay support and even the loss of driving privileges and/or jail time.
Scenario #3: Father is the Obligor and he loses his job, and as a result, is behind on his support. Mother says that he cannot have any parenting time with his children until he is current on his support.
Support and parenting time are not dependent obligations under Ohio Law. What this means is that Mother can not deny parenting time based upon non-payment of child support. If she does, she could be held in contempt for the improper denial of parenting time.
The loss of employment can be a depressing and demoralizing event for anyone. The Court is generally sympathetic to the request for a reduction of the Obligor’s child support obligation due to the loss of employment UNLESS the Obligor engaged in some sort of conduct causing the loss of employment. In those instances, the Court has the authority to “impute” income to the Obligor even if he or she has no income due to the actions or behaviors leading to the loss of employment. The loss of a job, like other changes in circumstances of the parties, can have a dramatic effect on child support and/or spousal support. Contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss the specific implications when such an event occurs.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.