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Ohio Supreme Court to decide if benefits affect child support

The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments today in a Medina County case that could clarify whether a company car, cell phone and other employee fringe benefits should count in determining child support payments.

A Medina County resident went to Common Pleas Court in 2010 asking for a reduction in the monthly support he was ordered to pay.

Jeffrey S. Morrow, president of the Ohio College of Massotherapy, was paying almost $2,200 monthly, records show. In his motion, Morrow, 52, of Granger Township, argued a reduction was warranted because his income had dropped as a result of the 2008-09 economic crisis.

County Domestic Relations Judge Mary Kovack denied Morrow’s request, ruling that the calculation of benefits should be based on Morrow’s total income, including $16,756 in fringe benefits. Those benefits included a car, insurance, cell phone service and season tickets to Ohio State University football games — all paid for or owned by his employer.

Kovack’s decision was upheld by the 9th District Court of Appeals, which ruled that such non-cash benefits are considered income under a “catch-all” provision in the law as “other forms of income.”

Morrow appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

His attorney, John C. Ragner, argued that Ohio law includes 23 specific sources of income used in determining child support payments — but employer-paid benefits aren’t one of those sources.

According to records, Ragner said the law includes such benefits only if the parent is self-employed or owns the business providing benefits.

Linda Hoffman, the attorney for Sherri Becker, the mother of Morrow’s children, said the previous courts’ decisions were correct because “all other sources of income,” as the law reads, would include non-cash benefits.

The Supreme Court justices will hear arguments from both sides, which will be given 15 minutes each to speak.

According to an Ohio Supreme Court spokeswoman, the justices usually take four to six months to return a decision after hearing oral arguments.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Correction (June 12, 9:45 a.m.): Sherri Becker is the mother of Jeffrey Morrow's two children. They were never married, as previously reported.

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