Ohio Tightens the Financial Noose on Non-Custodial Parents

Recently I was contacted by a panicked custodial father regarding a notice received by the Child Support Enforcement Agency. After years of insuring his son through a publicly funded health plan, he was ordered to insure his son through his employer at an additional $400 month, despite the fact that it was an inferior health plan. He presently makes $13.50/hr and supports himself and two sons. He told me, “If I have to do that, I’ll be forced into moving into an efficiency.”

It’s worth noting that he is the custodial father of two children. Statistically speaking, custodial fathers represent about 15% of custodial parents nationwide. What is odd besides him being the custodial parent is that he was ordered to carry the medical insurance on his children.

As most non-custodial parents (NCPs) know, it is they who are generally ordered to carry the medical insurance and to pay child support. Why is it that as a custodial parent and dad, he is required to carry the insurance and not the non-custodial mom? In my opinion this is another example of how fathers are not treated equally by the system.

Generally, the NCPs are ordered to pay child support, provide medical insurance and to pay at least 50% of the custodial parents out-of-pocket medical expenses. This hardly seems equitable and just when both parents may have the child(ren) 50% of the time.

He advises me that he doesn’t receive child support from the non-custodial mom and he has filed numerous motions to have her held in contempt. Time and time again, the judge keeps continuing his case for up to six months at a time to give her time to find a job. Even worse, he has been repeatedly threatened by the same judge with incarceration based solely on allegations in court (not on any motion that was filed) by the mother that he prevents her from seeing their son.

One need only look to Ohio’s prisons and child support “most-wanted” posters to understand what happens when a father doesn’t pay his child support. Why should the penalties be any different if it’s a non-custodial mom who defaults?

Please don’t mistake this as an attack on non-custodial moms as NC moms are ridiculed and ostracized far more regardless of why they don’t have custody of their children. They are automatically labeled and it’s assumed by many that there must be “something wrong” with a mom who lost custody of her children. There are many unjust reasons why some moms don’t have custody. One of them is money. They simply didn’t have the money to fight for what was right.

One of the worst stories I’ve ever heard was that of a mom who was divorced with her in absentia. Her ex literally took everything and was granted custody of their children despite the fact that it was she who sacrificed an education and a career to stay at home and raise her children. Even more disgusting is the court (located in Ohio) imputed her annual income at an amount that she hadn’t earned in all the years combined as a stay at home mom. They suspended her drivers license and where she lives, jobs are few and far between. Those that are available require a valid drivers license. How can she pay her child support when no one will employ her without a valid license? Thankfully, the prosecutor where she lives refuses to indict her for non-support as she’s a very compassionate and caring woman who sees the injustices in the system.

Back to the dad I was referring to, I questioned his county’s CSEA regarding why his publicly funded medical insurance was no longer acceptable to them. It turns out that Ohio revised its statutes in 2007. According to Ohio law, it is no longer acceptable for a child under a court mandated support order to be insured using publicly assisted plans.

Why was the law changed? That is easy to answer when one considers our present economy. The state of Ohio has a budget too. Like any other entity, they are experiencing budget shortfalls and decreased revenue. Therefore, they too must cut costs. What better way to cut cost than to force untold thousands of Ohio’s children off of publicly funded health insurance plans than to shift the burden of costs onto non-custodial parents who cannot afford to fight back.

If these parents refuse to insure their children through private plans regardless of whether or not they can afford to, and despite the coverage offered by the plan, they are in contempt of court and subject to incarceration.

Is forcing Ohio’s children onto less than adequate health insurance plans another example of how Ohio only acts in the best interests of our children? Certainly they wouldn’t do this merely because medical support orders also boosts Ohio’s share of the annual federal incentive pie would they?

Tony Fantetti
Ohio Council for Fathers Rights

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