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Income not only child-support factor, expert says

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com ∑ (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — An expert advising a Supreme Court committee looking to revise child-support guidelines said parents who object to the changes might be misinterpreting the proposed rate guidelines.

Austin Humbler of Dora told the Advisory Committee on Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement on Sept. 21 that he pays about $1,600 per month in child support, health insurance and related expenses for his two children.

Humbler was concerned that proposed changes in the amount of child support that parents would pay could make it impossible for him to remain financially solvent.

Economist and child-support expert Jane Venohr of Denver, who developed the recommended changes for Alabama, said Friday that she wonders if it is really the Alabama Child Support Guidelines or rather other issues that worry parents like Humbler.

Humbler said he and his ex-wife each have an annual income of about $50,000. He said he provides $1,600 per month in financial support, including health insurance, for his two children, who live primarily with his ex-wife.

Guidelines

Venohr said that under Alabama and federal child support guidelines, the state bases the total amount of support for a child on the incomes of both parents and factors in contributions for health insurance and child-care coverage.

In the case of two parents of almost equal income, one parentís child support obligation should be about half of the amount listed on the stateís child support schedule, she said.

Venohr said that under the proposed child support schedule, the combined child support for parents who make about $100,000 should decrease.

For parents whose combined income is $100,000 per year, or about $8,350 per month, the average child support for one child for both parents is now $977 but would drop to $924. Venohr said each parentís obligation should be about one-half of that.

For parents whose combined income is $100,000 per year, the average child support for both parents is now $1,426 for two children. It would drop to $1,378, with each parent obligated for half.

Parents whose combined income is $15,000 per year, or $1,250 per month, the current child support for one child is $222 for one child and $345 for two children. Under Venohrís proposal, the amount would be $195 for one child and $197 for two.

Health insurance

Venohr said when a parent pays for health insurance, that should lower the child-support obligation for that parent.

She said a parent paying a $700 per month premium for health insurance should get credit for 50 percent of that amount. So, for a parent with two children and paying $713 per month in child support, the amount should go down to $363 per month because of the insurance expense credit, she said.

ďTheir issues appear to be misplaced,Ē she said. ďI wonder if it would be more pragmatic to help focus on the specifics.Ē Related health insurance costs, child care and other expenses could be out of line and need adjusting, she said.

But some say middle-income parents will still have the largest increases. If the court adopts Venohrís recommendations, parents earning from $1,300 to $5,750 per month before taxes would pay the biggest increases. Those increases would range from 10 percent to 32.6 percent.

Some examples include:

  • Parents with one child and a combined monthly income of $1,350 per month together now pay a $236 per month in child support. They would pay $265 under the revision.

  • Parents with one child and a combined monthly income of $3,200 now pay a $459 per month together in child support. That would rise to a total of $613 per month.

    Tim Smith of Decatur and advisory committee member James R. Blackston of Vestavia Hills, both fathers, say it isnít easy for people to get a look at those numbers. So, they want more opportunity for public comment.

    Blackston and Bradley Barber filed an injunction with U.S. District Judge W. Clarence Albritton asking that he block the committee from a final vote on the recommendations until its has more public input.

    Albritton will hear arguments on the injunction Oct. 30 in Montgomery.

    On the Net

    View information about the Child Support Schedule and related material at the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts Web site at www.alacourt.gov. Click on Child Support listing on left of page and then on Child Support Guidelines Review.

    M.J. ELLINGTON

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