Utah Support Bills About Problem of Deficient Parents
By Chris Kramer
Child support is often a major issue during and after a divorce, and this fact is no more apparent than in the state of Utah where numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced in the state legislature to address a major problem.
A December 2005 legislative audit revealed that a combined $325 million worth of child support is owed to Utah children. Parents were behind on payments in more than 50% of the 800,000 Utah child support cases examined during this audit, according to a Deseret Morning News story.
State legislators have responded to this disturbing problem with sweeping legislative proposals that would bolster Utah child support laws.
- Senate Bill 23 would update and recalculate 13-year-old Utah child support guidelines and result in increased monthly payments in most cases. As an example, a parent who makes anywhere from $1501 to $1600 a month currently has to pay $227 each month in Utah child support for one child. If SB23 became a part of Utah family law, that payment would increase $57 to $284 a month, according to calculated data in the newspaper story.
SB23 was introduced by Senator Greg Bell last year before ultimately failing. It is currently being opposed by noncustodial parents who believe that it is based on inaccurate data and paints unfair stereotypes of the deadbeat dad and the struggling mother.
- House Bill 15 would affect noncustodial parents who are deficient on Utah child support payments in areas beyond their wallets. HB15 would allow the Utah Office of Recovery Services to administratively suspend the driver's license of any noncustodial parent who is 60 days or more behind on child support payments. HB15 was introduced last year by State Representative Julie Fisher before failing.
- Fisher has also introduced two other related bills. HB32 would expand a pilot program offering mediation to parents in 3rd district Utah child visitation disputes throughout the state. HB18 would allow the Office of Recovery Services to electronically transfer monthly payments from banking accounts rather than withdrawing them from the paychecks of eligible noncustodial parents.
- The Utah Senate would also give the Office of Recovery Services a little more power. SB104 would allow the ORS to impose the $25 annual fee required by federal law in cases where custodial parents have never received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
- House Bill 17 would give courts the power to require that delinquent parents post bond at an amount equal to 36 months of Utah child support payments. This bill has been proposed by Representative Lorie Fowlke, who has also had her hand on other Utah divorce and child visitation legislation.
In addition to her Utah child support bill, Fowlke has introduced:
- HB128, which would require couples to file a temporary separation order before a divorce filing and to also attend a divorce orientation course if becoming a part of Utah divorce laws;
- HB133, which would add Halloween as a holiday for Utah child visitation purposes and allow overnight parent-time for infants aged 12 to 18 months.
Besides these bills already in the Utah state legislature, four more related pieces of legislation are in the process of being drafted, according to the Deseret Morning News Story. One of those pieces is entitled "Marriage Preparation Education" and would reduce the marriage license fee for couples who attend counseling prior to getting married.
All of this legislative activity in Utah reveals the importance of child support as an issue in not only this state but all other 49 states in the U.S. While the divorce process may be complicated by lingering feelings and other circumstances, it is the duty of both parents to properly take care of their children's everyday financial needs and remain a healthy part of their lives after a divorce becomes final.