Senator Smith had introduced a bill in the last legislative session, SB 292, which Fathers and Families opposed and helped block. The Senator was thus seeking to understand our opposition to the bill, in order to submit a revised bill that could garner broad support.
SB 292 would have introduced a variety of desirable changes into Ohio law. For example, it would have provided stronger protections for low-income fathers against unreasonable child support obligations. It would also have allowed child support obligors who take on a second job or extra hours in order to support a second family to keep that extra money in their new household. And, it would have introduced into Ohio law for the first time a parenting time adjustment, which would have recognized non-residential parents’ direct expenses on their children.
However, despite these desirable aspects of the bill, Fathers and Families of Ohio opposed the bill for a number of reasons. It would have raised child support for most non-residential parents–sometimes quite dramatically–in the middle of the worst economic conditions in 80 years. The parenting time adjustment is also seriously inadequate for most situations. (It would recognize only a fraction of the expenses of most non-residential parents on their children, maintaining an approach that treats the child support recipient as the “real parent” and the obligor as a second-class parent.) Furthermore, SB 292 would have provoked costly and needless court battles over meaningless differences in parenting time. On balance, the problems with the bill significantly outweighed the benefits.
Trimble, Lee, and Hubin met with the Senator and two of her staff members for nearly an hour, exchanging their viewpoints on SB 292 and child support issues in Ohio generally. Senator Smith then asked one of her aides to try to include Judge David Lewandowski, Co-Chair of the Ohio Judicial Conference’s Domestic Relations Law & Procedure Committee, on the phone to continue the conversation with the input from the Judge. The discussion continued with the Judge for nearly another half hour.
“This was a candid, productive conversation,” said Hubin of the meeting. “I think everyone went away with a clearer idea of the concerns of the other parties. We made it very clear that Fathers and Families of Ohio wants child support laws that are fair to all parties and will encourage true shared parenting. I think we understand better the concerns of the judges, too. No conclusions were reached–nor did we expect to reach any. But we opened a dialog that we are hopeful will help to promote the interests of the children of Ohio by encouraging fully-engaged parenting by both parents whenever that’s possible.”
Senator Smith now plans to arrange a meeting of representatives of Fathers and Families of Ohio with not only Judge Lewandowski, but also Kim Newsom Bridges, Executive Director of the Ohio Child Support Directors’ Association and other important stakeholders in Ohio’s child support laws to try to make progress on drafting improved child support legislation.
“We are pleased that Senator Smith took the initiative to work with Fathers and Families of Ohio to try to write a new child support bill in a way that addresses the concerns we raised with SB 292,” said Hubin. “We appreciate her openness and we look forward to working constructively with the Senator, Judge Lewandowski, and others to improve the fairness of Ohio’s child support laws.”