Ohio Law Says Step-Parent’s Income Cannot Be Considered When Determining The Amount Of Child Support Owed
Generally speaking, we as a society tend to be of the mindset that if you decide to have a child, then you should be the one to take care of it…period. In reality, however, the issue is not so cut and dry. Different circumstances and factors come into play which, in the end, can alter who ultimately provides for a child. Take, for example, adoption. While the adoptive parent is not the natural, he or she ultimately chooses to become the child’s caregiver and supporter. What should happen though, in a case where a person is not the biological parent and does not necessarily choose to be financially responsible for a child, as is often the case with step-parents? When a person with children from a previous relationship remarries, should the new step-parent be on the hook for child support even when their new spouse is not the primary caregiver?
In Ohio, the answer is no. According to Ohio Revised Code 3103.03(A), the statutory duty to pay child support is only imposed on biological or adoptive parents. Therefore, when a couple with children splits and the non-custodial parent remarries, Ohio law does not allow the new step-parent’s income to be considered when determining the amount of child support owed. In keeping with the idea that the biological should be responsible for the child they brought into the world, this line of reasoning makes sense. However, there are some that would argue that step-parents should also be at least partially responsible for any child support owed by their new spouse.
This argument generally seems to be geared toward those couples living in community property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin). In these states, any money earned through work efforts during the marriage belongs equally to each spouse. Therefore, some would claim that because one half of the stepparent’s income technically belongs to the parent spouse, this money should be considered for purposes of calculating child support payments.
In addition, some carry this idea even further to include not only those in community property states, but to ALL non-custodial parents who remarry someone that works outside the home. In theory, if the non-custodial parent’s new spouse receives a pay check of any amount, the parent’s everyday financial child support obligations decrease. Technically, there are now two incomes to buy the groceries and two incomes to pay the bills. As a result, more of the parent’s finances are arguably “freed up” and therefore available to help provide for their children.
Even though these arguments may make sense, you will be hard pressed to find a law out there that allows a step-parent’s income to be considered when determining child support. In fact, almost every state completely excludes a step-parent’s income in the child support calculation. That being said, some exceptions do exist. For example, in California, if excluding the income would lead to extreme hardship to the child, the step-parent’s finances may be utilized to determine the amount of child support. However, this is certainly not common practice.
Contact An Experienced Family Law Attorney For Child Support and Income Payment Matters
While the state of the law may seem unfair to some, the truth of the matter is, the law views supporting a child as an obligation of the parents themselves. As such, a non-custodial parent’s remarriage is not likely going to change this anytime soon. Typically, states retain continuing jurisdiction to modify child support upon a change in circumstances. If you have questions about a child support matter or child maintenance income issue, contact an experienced family law attorney to evaluate your specific situation.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.