The Supreme Court of Ohio in the case of Morrow v Becker, recently addressed the issue of whether the value of employer provided benefits such as a company car, car insurance and cell phones should be included in income for purposes of calculating child support. Prior to this case, there had not been consistent judicial determinations of that issue in Ohio.
Mr. Morrow filed a motion in Medina County to modify his child support obligation. After including the value of his employer provided benefits in his gross income, the trial court concluded that there had not been a sufficient change of circumstances to warrant a reduction in Mr. Morrow's child support obligation. The reviewing court agreed, with the exception that the trial court should not have included the value of Ohio State University football tickets provided by the employer in Mr. Morrow's gross income. That error was, however, harmless as it would not have changed the result of the trial court's decision.
The majority of the Supreme court agreed with the reviewing court in all aspects of the case and rejected Mr. Morrow's argument. He had argued that the child support statutes do not, as to an employed person, include the value of employer provided benefits. The statutes do, however, include the value of such benefits provided to a self employed person or one who is a partner, or member of a closely held corporation. The court concluded that the General Assembly in enacting the statues did not mean to exclude employer provided benefits from the definition of gross income of an employed person.
The supreme Court also agreed that it was reasonable to exclude the value of the football tickets from gross income as they were meant, not a a perk to Mr. Morrow, but to be given to his employees and business associates.
One Justice disagreed with the majority's holding. He argued that before the value of the benefits were included in gross income there should have been an analysis of whether they were truly for business or personal purposes. Just as in the case of the football tickets, if the car, insurance, and cell phone were meant for business purposes they should not have been included.
Despite the well reasoned dissenting opinion, the law of Ohio, with respect to employer provided benefits is that as expressed by the majority of the Supreme Court. It will remain so unless the Court changes it's opinion or the legislature acts.