Improve Child Support in Ohio

Ohio’s child support guidelines are out of step with most of the rest of the country, with the federal government and the Child Support Guidelines Advisory Council pushing hard for increases in the amount of money collected. Children in Ohio are receiving at least 13 percent less in child support than the federal government suggests.

Recommendations by child support officials, judges, legislators and others are for Ohio lawmakers to update the guidelines, which have not been addressed since 1993. Officials have been working hard in recent years to correct another problem with the child support system. Enforcement agencies collected $1.75 billion in fiscal 2013 – a $76 million increase over the previous year. But there is still a long way to go. One example is in Meigs County, where the rate of collection is just 57.8 percent – the lowest in Ohio.

Sentencing reform in 2011 meant fewer parents are facing jail time for failing to pay large sums of child support. Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, only 312 fathers and 30 mothers saw jail time. That compares with a total of 588 deadbeats sent to jail five years earlier.

Meanwhile, even Jeff Aldridge, deputy director of child support with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, concedes another problem is the lack of agreement among those seeking an increase as to exactly what that figure should be. And, of course, legislators have been reluctant to make changes.

Children deserve all the support they can get, especially from their parents, and financial assistance is a huge part of that support. If changes to current guidelines are appropriate, legislators should consider making them. But those changes should not come simply for the sake of matching a federal figure that may not be right for Ohio, nor should lawmakers ignore the possibility that increasing the numbers will push collection rates back down again -particularly because deadbeat parents have less to fear in the way of punishment than they did a few years ago.