August is Child Support Awareness Month. What do you know about child support? The non-custodial parent is responsible for support of their child regardless of gender.

Let’s look at how child support comes into being.

A relationship between the parent and child must be established. Maternity is established through the mother giving birth. Paternity is established several ways. If a couple is married at the time of a child’s birth the husband is presumed to be the father. If the parents are not married, there is a process called "Acknowledgment of Paternity Affidavit." The form can be completed at the hospital when the child is born by both parents, or it can be completed at your Child Support Enforcement Agency or your local Vital Statistics Registrar.

If parentage is contested/in doubt, either parent may request CSEA to conduct genetic (DNA) testing to determine paternity. CSEA then orders all parties to submit to testing. An administrative paternity order is issued based on the outcome of the genetic test; the test must show a 99 percent probability of fatherhood.

If either parent fails to submit themselves or the child for genetic testing the CSEA may request the court to find the parent in contempt and force compliance. After paternity is established a support hearing establishes a support order for the child.

Establishment of paternity is a legal determination of parentage, not determination of the child’s last name. If the mother has given the child a last name other than the father’s and will not agree to the child having his last name, the father must go to court to have the name changed.

The process to establish paternity is available at any time before the child becomes 23 years of age. Paternity can be established even if the parents live in different states or in different countries.

The person receiving support may be the child’s biological parent, guardian, legal custodian or the person with whom the child lives. Support orders can be established by the CSEA without going to court. If court is necessary, the CSEA will assist in obtaining a child support order.

The amount of support a parent must pay is determined by using the "Ohio Child Support Guidelines." Both parents must provide verification of their incomes or provide their most recent income tax returns.

If the parent who owes the child support doesn’t pay there are ways to collect. Income withholding applies to almost all types of income — not just wages. "Income" includes, but is not limited to: personal earnings; workers' compensation payments; unemployment compensation benefits; pensions; annuities; allowances; private or governmental retirement benefits; disability or sick pay; insurance proceeds; lottery prize awards; any form of trust fund or endowment; lump-sum payments; assets in a financial institution; any other payment in money.

The Tax Offset — the collection of state and federal tax refunds for child support. The CSEA can also report the support debt to the credit bureaus, invoke professional license suspension, increase the amount of income withholding to pay arrears and get a seek work order for the parent.

Failure to pay child support is contempt of court. Penalties can increase with each offense and can include fines and/or jail time. Federal law also can be used for criminal non-support charges including imprisonment (up to six months) and/or a fine, and mandatory restitution of unpaid support.

If you have been ordered to pay child support, remember this is about providing for your child. Pay your child support.

Mrs. Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.