Ohio bill would set child support standards in cases involving children with disabilities

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, with joint sponsor Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Westlake, announced last week the passage of House Bill 338 that will help ensure consistency around the state for how courts award child support in divorce cases for children with disabilities who have turned 18 and are unable to support themselves.

Current Ohio law and Supreme Court ruling Castle v. Castle are clear that family courts can award child support that continues beyond age 18 when the child’s parents divorce prior to the child reaching adulthood.

But there have been some inconsistent rulings on such awards, and this legislation is meant to close any gaps.

“This legislation is about ensuring that no matter where you live in Ohio or the timing of your parents’ divorce, your parent will have the ability to ask a judge to consider awarding child support if you have a disabling condition that prevents you from being financially independent,” White said.

“Ohio families’ lives are being impacted, and currently some of the most vulnerable citizens in this state are not receiving the critical care and support they need. We need consistency and fairness in the way family courts are approaching these situations to ensure equal treatment across the state.”

The bill would clarify any confusion within the law by “the codifying of child support to include adults with a mental or physical disability, whose disability began before 18 and who are incapable of supporting or maintaining themselves after entering adulthood” — regardless of the timing of their parents’ divorce.

First-time support awards as well as modifications in the event support is no longer needed at the same levels or at all will also be allowed.

The bill does not change anything about how child support is calculated or determined, with support decisions remaining at the discretion of the judge, according to the release.

“Being a parent is hard, being a divorced parent to a child with a disability that will be financially dependent on you for the rest of their lives is even harder,” Sweeney said.

“Ohio families and the parents of children with disabilities already face too many challenges in their daily lives. We shouldn’t be making it even harder for families who find themselves in these difficult circumstances just because they live in the wrong appellate district.”

House Bill 338 will now head to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

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