Posts Tagged child support

“I Get Tired Chasing Tongue Draggers” from the lips of a fired teacher……

By Attorney David Engler

For the last 12 years I have been a school board member of a county board and a career and technical center. On the county board or Educational Service Center we provide the services to help local districts improve. We also run special schools including one for emotionally disturbed children with varying behavioral issues; a school run in conjunction with a great program started by the local Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.  At the MCCTC almost a third of our students have an IEP. An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is required by law and so many parents do not understand how important to ensure your child’s IEP is carefully constructed to specifically help your child no matter the cost or inconvenience to a district.


The worst thing I ever heard was from the lips of a fired teacher who told me how hard it was to chase after “tongue draggers” every day. My emotions were caught in between punching him and simply shaking my head. I am glad we fired him. Instead I will never forget those words and how insensitive some in education can be towards a child with a disability.  And if that disability is one of a severe emotional problem or a slight shade of Autism or Asperger’s, then most of our teachers are ill-trained to help the child with the different wiring. There are many teachers who just get it.  They are naturals at knowing how to reach the student with a disability that can be unnerving and tiring. They also understand the investment a parent has made in this child.  The teacher may have the child 6 hours a week or maybe more if an elementary student.

And often indifference is the answer from an administration concerned about increased costs.  So whether they admit it or not, every administrator knows that a diagnosis of a disability might bring years of extra costs for the district. In a famous case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009) the court ruled that the district should have reimbursed the parents for the costs of private schooling since the District should have been aware of the disability and provide assistance to the family.  The District claimed they had no idea there was a problem. Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court stated: “We conclude that IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) authorizes reimbursement for the cost of special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.” The cost to the district was $65000 to reimburse the parents and potentially $500000 in legal fees. 

Every school district is legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(3)). After the evaluation, the district may provide the child with specific programs and services to address special needs.

IDEA defines “children with disabilities” as individuals between the ages of three and 22 with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Specific learning disability, or
  • Other health impairment                  (20 U.S.C. §1401(3); 34 C.F.R. §300.8).

For your child to qualify for special education under IDEA, it is not enough to have one of these disabilities. There must also be evidence that the disability adversely affects your child’s educational performance.

Now each school district should be well aware of its responsibilities.  But sadly not every administrator can see life from the eyes of a parent struggling to find help for their child.  The schools seem relieved if they can cause the child to graduate and be done with the financial exposure. The former Director of Special Ed for Maryland, Dr. Linda Bluth gave me the best advice ever.  “Our children do not fail…it is we who fail our children.” It is very difficult to cause a school culture to adopt this core belief.  It makes us accountable.  It denies us the ability to blame little to no achievement on a kid with a mental problem, a broken home, a history with children services, parents who think they know better(they almost always do) or some other societal bogeyman.  No we have to own it.  This means we will have failures.  And they will sting. 

But for the guardians and parents there is help for you. I have included some of the language in the federal IDEA statute above to help you know what to do.  The regulations can be found at  The country has 81 million students that fit this category.  Ohio has about 3 million.  We need more teachers and aides with special education training. We need to pay them more to encourage their numbers and recognize that their job makes teaching even tougher than it already is.  You can also look at This handbook gives you sample letters to ask for independent evaluations  and how the legal process works.  Or hire a lawyer.

Most importantly we need parents to step forward and be armed with the law as you demand the very best possible Free and Appropriate Public Education for your child. The key word to me is appropriate.  These children are all so very different.   Make sure the IEP has real goals that can be measured without someone guessing that your son or daughter has advanced with soft logic.  Don’t give up and never be afraid to ask to talk directly to the Board of Education.  Often the Board members are shielded from the other side of the story. Do not assume that they will side with the administrators standing in your way.  

You have been given a child with special needs because you can handle it.  I do not need to tell you your journey is tough. Not everyone is going to be understanding.  But I can tell you that the law is on your side and many more people than you could possibly imagine.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777 Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog and on


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Addiction Stronger Than Motherhood

By Attorney David Engler

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Clearly having an agreement about how a couple will jointly parent the child or children is the best result.  But if there is no agreement, often accusations will fly.

And I warn all clients to be aware that the court might order a drug screen at any given time.  The courts will almost always take the child or children from the parent on illegal drugs and give custody to the parent who is not hooked.  Sometimes it is hard to find anyone not taking pain pills without a prescription. In one case both parents and a grandparent were dirty. In Ohio for the first time overdoses of drugs has overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death.

In one case the mother was asked by the Magistrate to give a urine screen and she said she couldn’t because she had a yeast infection.  Everyone found that to be disgusting and a weak excuse.  Recently a nice looking young mother was asked to take a screen and at first she agreed.  Then after 15 minutes she comes back and said she had just pee’d before court.  The Court told her to drink some water. 30 minutes later still no urine.  I really didn’t need to see a drug test. She had all the signs.  Empty pill bottles without prescriptions.  Selling things from her house.  Unable to keep a schedule.  A doctor at an ER saying no narcotics for you after she came with a complaint of a tooth ache.  (I was thinking good for the doctor who checked the database from his Akron offices and saw she had filled 21 prescriptions for pain meds in the last two years.)

So she only sees her child if supervised.  That is the overwhelming power of the pain pill epidemic. This scourge does not see race, sex or income.  It is even more powerful than a mother’s natural instinct to care for her child. 

People can recover and get their children back.  But the road is very difficult and those who are nearest to the addict must not be fooled.  We the parents, or friend or guardian must dispense very tough love. Get help; call 211. You will find a counselor, clinic or N.A. Group.  It is a persistent enemy.  For some it is stronger than motherhood.


Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777 Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on and on Attorney David Engler’s Blog

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Child Support… Sometimes It Pays To Stay at Home!

By Attorney David Engler

Child Support is determined by state statute. (In Ohio you can look at )

Basically child support looks at the gross income of the couple. Gross income does not include means tested income like SSI or food-stamps.

The Obligor pays the obligee and what they pay breaks down on a percentage of gross income basis. If the husband (Obligor) made $60,000 and the wife (Obligee) made $40,000, the (couple’s) gross income would be $100,000 and the father would be ordered to pay 60% of the statute ordered presumptive correct amount of $16,583. I am over simplifying… but multiply $16,583 by 60% for a total of $9948 and divide by 12 for an award of $829 per month.

For sure there are deductions and the amount might change if the father and mother have equally divided the visitation or companionship with the children. There are also deductions for local income taxes, union dues, work expenses and payments made for other children.

I have argued cases where the Magistrate did not deviate much from the formula because they thought that there was a great disparity in income between the obligor and the obligee. But I would urge a person who is ordered to pay, to flush out all the benefits the receiving party might be receiving, like Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, Housing Assistance and College Support.

In one recent case, I represented a mechanic who was lucky to bring home $50,000 gross per year and it looked like the ex-wife was making less than $11,000. After my client was done paying child support and a mortgage and car payments; he had nothing; But when you looked at all the tax free benefits she was receiving, her after tax annual income was $34,000.!

There is an entire group of people who know how to game the system to maximize government benefits. Governments and Judges often have a paternalistic view of a poor unemployed obligee, but if you dig long enough there are reasons people stop finding work. The government has taken away the incentive to look for a job if you can basically stay at home and make $34,000 tax free!

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How Long Should My Divorce Take?

by Attorney David Engler

Not too long ago many divorce cases took years to get resolved. It was not uncommon for a divorce trial to start and stop, then be reset in 45 days. Sometimes a lawyer will state that he is busy with another matter, or a criminal case takes priority over the domestic relations court docket. Beware that these are usually tactics to simply prolong the inevitable divorce entry. In Cuyahoga County in particular the Supreme Court pushed the Court to adhere to the general rules that a case with children should be resolved within 18 months and cases without children should not sit on the docket longer than 9 months. (See Plain Dealer Article) All courts in Ohio and elsewhere have to abide by rules promulgated by the Supreme Court.

The idea is to end abuse by one side that benefits from protracted litigation and costs the litigants unnecessary legal fees and the court’s tax dollars. It is especially true in a short term marriage where the parties have been married for less than three years without children and one side wants to drag the process out, knowing that spousal support is unlikely to be granted. It is the court’s responsibility to move a case along, but is always helpful to the party being penalized by the delay to have their lawyer speak up.

I cannot say there are no winners when divorce actions are delayed because the party getting temporary benefits prior to the divorce is actually winning. There are certainly two losers which is usually the person paying the temporary support, the court and sadly enough the children who do not benefit from no finality in the breakup of a family.

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