South Dakota Relents on Oppressive, Exploitative and Destructive Child
21 January 2005
Changes proposed in child-support system
By Joe Kafka
(PIERRE, S.D.) AP - Estranged parents should not have to pay more than half of
their monthly incomes in child support, legislators decided Friday, sending a
package of recommended changes to the full Senate.
Circuit Judge Max Gors, who chaired a special commission last year that reviewed
the state child-support system, told the Senate Judiciary Committee an upper
limit should be set on payments. He said some parents told the commission that
75 percent to 80 percent of their incomes went for child support.
"People are paying, in some cases, so much of their incomes there's nothing left
for them to live on," Gors said.
The legislation would generally consider it a financial hardship if parents'
total support obligations exceed half of their incomes.
SB60, endorsed unanimously by the committee, also would change existing law so
incomes from second jobs would not be counted toward child-support obligations.
Parents employed full-time who make at least the legal minimum wage would not be
in danger of having wages from second jobs used to calculate child support, Gors
Another provision would pare the current six-year period on back payments of
child support to three years after a woman with a child born out of wedlock
first requests it. Trying to make up six years' of payments is difficult for
many fathers, Gors said.
"A lot of (them) just give up and walk away," he said.
The clock on back support would begin ticking when a mother files court papers,
asks the Division of Child Support Enforcement Services to pursue child support
on her behalf, or notifies the father in a letter that is delivered personally,
by registered mail or by certified mail.
The legislation also would strengthen shared parenting provisions in state law
by requiring agreements in writing for expenses dealing with a child's
education, recreation and entertainment.
Written agreements for those expenses would result in fewer disputes, Gors said.
"Because you have to agree to shared parenting, we've suggested that it has to
be in writing."
Linda Lea Viken, a former legislator and a Rapid City lawyer who also served on
the commission studying child support, said shared parenting arrangements
frequently end up in squabbles over money.
"Right now, every situation ends up in court because there's nothing in
writing," she said.
The bill would deal with instances when parents have agreed to a change in
physical custody of a child without a judge's approval. The parent giving up
custody may be ordered to pay child support even though the court order has not
been changed to reflect the new circumstances.
SB60 won unanimous approval Friday.
Posted 2005 01 22