Should Work Benefits Be Included in Child Support Calculations?

In general, if there has been a substantial change in a person’s financial circumstances — salary cut, termination, the onset of terminal illness, etc. — they may petition the court to lower the amount of their monthly child support payments. It should be noted, however, that the court will take a multitude of factors into consideration when making this important decision.

To illustrate, consider a very interesting case out of the state of Ohio, where the state Supreme Court was called upon to decide whether certain job benefits should be included in the calculation of child support payments.

The case in question involved a father who was ordered to make child support payments for his two children by a family court judge back in 2006. However, three years later, the father petitioned the court asking for a reduction, citing the fact that his salary as president of a massage therapy school had been slashed in half during the recession.

The family court ultimately rejected the petition for lower child support payments and included $16,756 in work-related perks — a company car, insurance, cell phone, and tickets to Ohio State football games — in their calculation.

The father disagreed and filed an appeal that eventually made its way before the Ohio Supreme Court.
In a decision issued just last week, the court affirmed the lower court ruling 6-1 as it related to the inclusion of the company car, cell phone, and insurance in the child support calculation. Here, the court found that these benefits had the effect of giving the father a higher income.

“The record indicates that [the father] did not have a car, car insurance, or phone, other than the car, car insurance, and phone provided to him by his employer,” reads the opinion. “If his employer did not provide a car, [the father] would have had to purchase or lease one on his own, using his own funds … The person receiving the benefit effectively has a higher income. We reach the same conclusion with respect to car insurance and cell phone.”

Interestingly, the court found that the football tickets should not have been included in the calculation due to the fact that the father either gave them to employees as a reward for good work or as a gift for business associates, meaning he never received any value from the tickets.

What are your thoughts on this case? Was the result fair?

Remember, if you would like to learn more about child support or child support modification here in Minnesota, you should strongly consider consulting with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and enforce your rights.