For the first time in about 25, years, there is an updated version of the Ohio Child Support Guidelines. There have been a number of changes intended, quite literally, to bring the guidelines into the 21st century. The cost of living increased nearly 42% in the ten years from 1982 to 1992; from 1992 to 2016, it has increased 99.5%! Clearly, it was necessary to bring the child support guidelines in line with economic reality. In Ohio, child support is calculated using an “income shares” model, starting with gross income. What is “gross income” for Ohio child support purposes?
Gross income includes the total of all earned and unearned income from all sources in a calendar year. This includes income that is not taxable. As you would probably expect, gross income includes income from salaries, wages, overtime pay, and bonuses. It also includes tips, commissions, royalties, and dividends.
Other types of income included in gross income are:
- Severance pay
- Pension payments
- Trust income
- Social Security benefits, including retirement, disability, and survivor benefits that are not means-tested
- Workers’ compensation benefits
- Unemployment insurance benefits
- Disability insurance benefits
- Service-connected veterans’ benefits that are not means-tested and that have been received by and are in the possession of the veteran
- Spousal support that was actually received
Also under the umbrella of “gross income” is compensation for members of the armed services, including base pay, basic allowance for quarters, basic allowance for subsistence, supplemental subsistence allowance, cost of living adjustments, specialty pay, variable housing allowance, and pay for required training or other required drills. Also included are self-generated income and potential cash flow from any source.
As you can see, gross income encompasses many things. At this point, you may be wondering if there is any type of income that does not count toward gross income for Ohio child support purposes.
What is NOT Included in Gross Income for Ohio Child Support
There are a limited number of items that do not fall into the category of gross income for the purposes of calculating Ohio child support. Items not included in gross income include benefits from means-tested government administered programs such as Ohio Works First, SNAP, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), among others. Adoption assistance and foster care maintenance payments made under Title IV-E of the Social Security act are also not considered to be gross income.
Non-means-tested service-connected disability benefits administered by the VA are not included in gross income so long as they have not been distributed to the veteran beneficiary and are still in the possession of the VA. Non-recurring or unsustainable income or cash flow items are also not considered in the calculation of gross income, and those are things like one-time lottery winning (but not periodic payments for lottery wins), sign-on bonuses, and sales of assets.
Child support payments received for the support of children who are not included in the current calculation are not included in gross income. For instance, if the obligor (person paying child support in the calculation) receives $300 per month in support for children of his first marriage, but has to pay child support for the children of a second marriage, that $300 payment is not included in gross income when calculating child support for the children of the second marriage.
Mandatory deductions from wages like union dues or uniform fees are not included in gross income for child support calculations. However, this exception does not include other mandatory deductions like taxes, Social Security, or retirement in lieu of social security.
What the Changes in Child Support Calculation Mean for You
Now that you know what “gross income” means for the purposes of your child support calculations, what do the changes in how child support is calculated mean for you and your family? First and foremost, the child support worksheet reflects the increase in both the cost of living and incomes since the last child support update. Whereas the old worksheet calculated gross family income only up to $150,000, the new worksheet can consider gross family incomes up to $336,000 (combined).
The changes in Ohio child support calculation are intended to reflect the reality most Ohio families are living and to bring support levels more in line with what families are actually spending on their children.
If you have questions about the changes in Ohio child support law, watch this space: we’ll be examining other aspects of the changes in weeks to come. If you want to know how the new law applies to your specific situation, we invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation.