How a Kentucky invoice erases the kid assist reforms handed in 2021

Matt Hancock
| Opinion Contributor

Last year, Kentucky passed a much-needed child support reform bill making it just one of four states earning an A- or higher grade from the National Parents Organization. The new law removed a 1.5 multiplier, which is often called the “Shared Parenting Penalty Multiplier,” that randomly inflated shared parenting child support.

Other changes included adding a self-support reserve, which assures low-income parents enough resources for themselves. Better yet, the law finally established a straight percentage credit for shared parenting overnight stays. The bill passed the House 93-0 in bipartisan fashion and 33-0 vote in the Senate. These new changes just went into effect on March 1, 2022.

But while these new reforms were being enacted, the Kentucky House has inexplicably just passed House Bill 501, a new bill that dissolves a big piece of the new law. Instead of crediting shared parenting overnight stays with a straight line, the latest proposed system would use a complicated cliff system that is unfair to the payor parent.

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For example, if the payor parent has 146 overnight stays (40%) per year with their child, he or she reaches a cliff for calculating child support of 30.5% credit. If the payor parent has just seven more overnights at 153, a higher cliff is reached, and his/her child support percentage credit rises to 36%. But if the overnight stays fall between 147 and 152, nothing changes from the original 30.5% cliff. I guess the lawmakers think children are cost-free those nights. Worse yet, the arbitrary and unscientific cliff system and percentages continues throughout all levels of overnights.

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Not only does the cliff system impose unfair burdens on the payor parent, but it also invites further family court conflict. When just one overnight can increase or decrease your child support credit by 20%, parents on each side will be fighting over a mere day. Nobody wins in family court fights and the child always loses.

From our historic 2018 Shared Parenting Law up until last year’s child support reforms, Kentucky has been the nation’s clear family court reform leader for years. But if this new child support bill passes the Senate and Gov. Beshear signs it into law, it will be a drastic step backwards for our state. And this is happening while the 2021 reforms haven’t even been in effect for a full month yet. Let’s hope that Kentucky’s legislature does the right thing by rejecting this bill and keeping in place the best child support guidelines in the nation.

Matt Hancock is Chair of the Executive Committee for National Parents Organization of Kentucky.

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