By Mike Stetzer
March 8, 2007 — Child support is often an important issue during the divorce process, and could become even more of a major factor in Utah cases after the state Senate approved legislation last week which would set new and increased child support guidelines for parents without custody.
According to a Utah Daily Herald story, this new child support legislation could lead up to a 25% increase in monthly payments for parents with one child and without custody following a divorce. Such a change to Utah child support guidelines would mark the first adjustment to these tables since 1994.
This Utah child support legislation is not without controversy for several reasons. Besides the obvious financial argument that such an increase in monthly payments would be extremely difficult for non-custodial parents, the manner in which this legislation passed the Senate proved interesting.
Specifically, the Utah Senate initially rejected his child support bill, SB23, on a 12-14 vote. However, its sponsor Greg Bell argued that a "procedural anomaly" had occurred and was able to get a second vote. This Utah child support bill was then approved with an 18-11 vote, according to the story. Prior to this drama, the state House approved this Utah child support bill by a 39-34 vote.
Bell said that this Utah child support legislation was needed since current child support payment guidelines haven't been adjusted in more than a decade and are out-of-whack, a claim that even opponents of this bill agreed with. Bell added that state child support tables are merely guidelines for judges during Utah divorce cases and may not necessarily reflect what a parent without custody will have to pay.
Bell further argued on behalf of this potential change to Utah child support law by saying that the new tables would be modest in cases where there are more children. He also called potential increases in Utah child support payment guidelines in-line with the cost of living in the state, an argument which opponents to the bill took him to task for in the story.
Senator Jon Greiner claimed that this Utah child support legislation would have a dramatic impact on people in lower tax brackets. Greiner cited that specific fields of work where the pay is not as high as other jobs and the divorce rate is higher would be adversely affected by this Utah child support legislation. He cited the law enforcement field as a specific example.
Senator Michael Waddoups added that the new, adjusted child support tables under this legislation are unrealistic. He specifically said in the story that this child support bill does not take into account the additional costs following a Utah divorce, like having two households instead of one. Waddoups described the changes as being too much and occurring too fast, and also wondered why Utah, a state with a lower standard of living and per capita income, would charge some of the highest child support payments in the country!
Changes in monthly payments would not take effect until 2010, granted that this legislation becomes a part of Utah child support law. Non-custodial parents would continue paying current child support payments until that time.