Child support reforms clear Ohio Senate

3:18 p.m Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 News
Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, supported a bill to overhaul Ohio’s child support system. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Ohio Senate on Wednesday voted 27-5 in favor of a bill that calls for the first major overhaul in the state’s child support system since 1992.

The system is rife with problems, including $4.5 billion in unpaid child support going back to 1976 and an outdated formula that some think drives non-custodial parents into the underground economy to avoid wage garnishments. Most of the debt — nearly 70 percent — is owed by parents who make less than $10,000 a year, child support enforcement officials say.

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While more than 1 million kids are in the Ohio child support system, the changes won’t be applied retroactively. The state child support system, which collects nearly $2 billion a year for children, is supposed to balance the cost of raising a child with the ability of parents to pay.

Senate Bill 125 calls for updating economic data used to calculate child obligations, taking into account shared parenting arrangements and recognizing that non-custodial parents often provide health insurance for their kids.

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The economic data currently used in calculations dates back to the early 1980s. Although studied every four years, lawmakers have never updated them. Among the reforms embedded in Senate Bill 125 is to move the guidelines from Ohio Revised Code — the purview of state lawmakers — to Ohio Administrative Code, which can be changed by state officials in the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, called the changes sensible, up-to-date and comprehensive.

Five Democrats voted against the bill. State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said he plans to work with House members to make needed changes to the bill.

The bill now moves to the Ohio House for consideration.