This week, the Ohio Supreme Court considered whether a Father who had failed to make monthly court ordered child support payments for the past year could avoid the legal provision removing the requirement that he consent to an adoption of the child by characterizing his $125 Christmas gift card and $60 birthday gift as maintenance and support.
Section 3107.07(A) of the O.R.C. states that consent to an adoption is not required of “[a] parent of a minor…[who] has failed without justifiable cause…to provide at least one year immediately preceding either the filing for the maintenance and support of the minor as required b law or judicial decree for a period of at the adoption petition or the placement of the minor in the home of the petitioner.” In plain English, this means that failure to pay support and maintenance for the year preceding an adoption attempt removes the need for the non-paying parent (usually the Father) to consent to the adoption (often a step-parent adoption).
Justice O’Donnell, writing for a unanimous Court, found that a voluntary gift is not in the nature of support and maintenance and did not amount to a hills of beans when compared to the annual child support obligation. ($12,000). Further, the gifts were not pursuant to court order. Because the Father could not show by clear and convincing evidence that his nonsupport for the past year was supported by some justifiable cause, the adoption proceeded without his consent.
The moral here is pretty simple: Pay your child support! If this particular Father had made a $185.00 payment through the child support enforcement agency, and could present evidence of job loss, disability or other legitimate misfortune, the outcome would have likely been different. In any event, this particular case clarifies what Ohio requires from Fathers and resolves a split of authority among Ohio’s appellate districts.
The case can be viewed at http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2012/2012-Ohio-236.pdf. The case name is In Re Adoption of M.B., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-236.