House passes updates to child support laws

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Kentucky House passed a bill on Monday that would update the state’s child support guidelines to be in line with federal guidelines, according to the Legislative Research Commission 9LRC).

Republican Representative C. Ed Massey, of Hebron and Democratic Representative Angie Hatton, of Whitesburg, say they worked with county attorneys and judges across the state along with the Child Support Commission to put together House Bill 404, according to LRC.

Rep. Massey says it has been 15-years since Kentucky has updated these guidelines.

The bill covers updates to shared custody guidelines and seeks to ensure that child support monies are benefitting the child or children in question, according to LRC.

Another section of the bill would change how child support is charged for people who have less than 50/50 custody but more than the standard every other weekend custody agreement. Rep. Hatton says this section of the bill would not go into effect until March 1, 2022, to give judges time to adjust and lawmakers time to fix any issues in the next session if needed.

The House unanimously approved HB 404 by a 93-0 vote, according to LRC.

House Bill 402, an act relating to flagrant nonsupport, also came before the full House on Monday, according to LRC.

Currently if a parent is $1,000 behind on child support payments they could be charged with a felony. Under HB 402, that threshold would be increased to $5,000, according to LRC.

Rep. Massey, who is the primary sponsor of the bill, says the threshold of $1,000 is outdated and has been in place for as long as he can remember in his 30 years as an attorney.

This bill would help parents who may lose their job and fall a month or two behind on payments from receiving a felony charge, according to Rep. Massey. There are some cases where the current law creates a domino effect where a parent cannot find a job due to the felony charge and therefore fall even further behind on payments.

“That does not mean, ladies and gentlemen, that somebody could not be held in contempt or prosecuted if you will, because they’re not living up to the obligation of caring for their minor children, but what it does do is prevent them from being put into a felony status for $1,000,” according to Rep. Massey.

A House Committee Substitute to change the increase of the threshold to $2,500 instead of $5,000 failed on the House Floor after Republican Rep. Jim DuPlessis, of Elizabethtown, spoke against the motion.

“I can give you an example of a constituent who is having trouble making their payments. The payments assigned to them are at approximately $900 a month and they only make $2,000 a month after taxes,” according to Rep. DuPlessis.

This constituent struggles to make their payments, DuPlessis added, but they’re doing what they can to support their children.

HB 402 cleared the House floor by a 71-22 vote.

Both HB 404 and HB 402 will now go before the Kentucky Senate for consideration.

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