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Are the child support calculators available online accurate?

As a parent, you want to do everything you can to help your child grow up happy and healthy. You want to give them a memorable childhood and a bright future. You want to support them in their endeavors, whether they are sports, music, dance, arts or another extracurricular activity.

The unavoidable fact of life is that all of this costs money. If you are an unmarried parent or one who is contemplating divorce, it can be a big source of anxiety. Will divorce lower your child's standard of living? Will you have to start picking and choosing which activities your child can participate in? Will you have enough to make ends meet?

When these questions start running through your mind, you might take to the Internet for answers. Typing "Ohio child support" brings up a host of informational pages, so you start reading. You might figure out a few things you did not know or reaffirm some of the information you have already heard, like:

  • Both parents have an obligation to support their child.
  • The support is in benefit of the child, to cover the expenses of raising a child.
  • Orders are determined using the Ohio child support guidelines.
  • The court uses a specific formula to calculate the amount of support.
  • A judge can deviate or adjust the final amount.
  • Support obligations end when the child is 18 and graduates from high school.
  • You can modify a child support order.
  • Support payments are not taxable income for the receiving party nor deductible for the paying party.
  • Child support orders are enforceable.

In your research, there is a good chance you will also come across a few links to free, online calculators. So you decide to try it, see how much your single child is entitled to under the law:

  • Step 1: Determine the custodial and non-custodial parent. That has not yet been decided in court, so you choose yourself as the custodial parent and your husband as the non-custodial parent for purposes of the exercise.
  • Step 2: Enter the gross monthly income of each parent. You took the last few years off work, so you enter zero in your box. You put $9,000 in your husband's box.
  • Step 3: Enter the monthly cost of daycare paid by each parent. Okay, you estimate that to be about $1,000. You put that in your husband's box.
  • Step 4: Enter the monthly cost of health insurance. You put the $150 it costs for your insurance also in your husband's box.
  • Step 5: Enter the amount of alimony and child support from a previous marriage. Neither of you were previously married, so you leave these boxes blank.

You hit "calculate" and get a result of $1009. Is this number accurate? If you look up the actual child support worksheet, found under Section 3119.022 of the Ohio Revised Code, you see quite a few more boxes than the online calculator includes.

At this point, you realize that your number is probably not as good of an estimate as you originally thought. Take income alone, it fails to consider the fact that his bonuses were much larger this year than the past several. You didn't realize that the court could "impute" an income for you based on your degree and your prior work experience. Oh yeah, you forgot that the judge can make adjustments too.

You realize that although it is a specific formula or a mathematical calculation, entering the right numbers into it, is not that simple. You realize it is time to talk to an attorney and make sure you get the support your child is entitled to under the law.

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