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Public can weigh in on child-support rates

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Alabamians who want to voice their opinions about proposed changes to child-support payment rates will have that chance at a Sept. 21 meeting of the committee that helps set them.

The Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement makes recommendations on child-support issues to the Alabama Supreme Court.

It is considering changes to the Alabama Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations.

The schedule helps courts determine how much child support parents of different income levels pay to help support minor children.

The schedule has not changed since the early 1990s.

But proposed changes could result in payment increases of more than 32 percent for some middle- and lower-middle income parents, and decreases for the highest and lowest wage earners.

Hardship questions

Some parents who pay child support fear the changes could be a hardship.

Wayne Jones, a staff attorney for the Supreme Court, said people who want to make comments do not need to pre-register. He asked speakers to keep comments brief so others will have enough time.

The meeting will be at the Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building in Montgomery.

The Supreme Court asked the committee to reconsider three child-support-related recommendations it made in 2006. The proposed change to the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations is one of the three items up for reconsideration.

Topics of debate

Part of the discussion will include:

  • Whether to consider other children a parent paying child support may have when setting child-support amounts.

  • Whether to allow a deduction for all family members or only a child’s portion of the cost of health insurance.

    Jane Vehnor, a Denver-based policy analyst and adviser to the committee, developed the recommended changes. She will be at the meeting to discuss her recommendations and answer questions, Jones said.

    If the Supreme Court adopts the committee’s current recommendations, parents earning from $1,250 to $5,450 per month before taxes would pay the biggest increases. Those increases would range from 10 percent to 32.6 percent more than the current schedule.

    Parents with income of $5,500 or more would also pay more, but in increases ranging from 0.5 percent to 9.5 percent. Parents earning less than $1,100 before taxes would pay as much as 71 percent less.

    The Supreme Court is concerned about the possible impact of the proposed changes, particularly double-digit increases for middle-class parents. So it asked the Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement to review the issue.

    The federal government requires states to re-evaluate child-support guidelines and rates to continue receiving federal child welfare funds. The committee first made the current recommendations in September 2006.

    Facts to know

    What: Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement meeting.

    When: Sept. 21 at 10 a.m., open to public.

    Where: Heflin-Torbert Judicial Building, 300 Dexter Ave., Montgomery.

    Why: Reconsider recommendations to state child-support guidelines.

    Who: Jane Venohr, a Denver policy analyst, will discuss proposals.

    Other: The Alabama Supreme Court appoints advisory committee members.

    M.J. Ellington

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