By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
A legislative committee has advanced a proposal that would raise recommended child support payments in Wyoming by about 12%.
House Bill 12 cleared the Wyoming Legislature’s House Judiciary Committee during its Monday meeting with a 7-2 vote of approval and now faces the state House as a whole.
If it passes the Legislature, the bill would increase, roughly across the board, the percentage of income recommended as child support costs in the state.
Factoring Inflation Wages
Judges overseeing child-support cases can adjust amounts given specific circumstances in each family, said Kristie Arneson, senior administrator of the Wyoming Department of Family Services economic division.
Combined monthly wages of parents in the new bill all are changed to round figures ranging from $1,000 per month to $15,000 per month, while recommended child support percentages are consistently higher in each category, by about 12% once larger, inflation-era wages are factored in.
Non-custodial parents pay child support to custodial parents.
The state is required by federal law and its own statutes to review its child support recommendation tables every four years, Arneson told the committee, adding that DFS favors the proposed law.
The tables have not been adjusted since 2013, when they were adjusted based on 2012 data, she said.
“We understand that there has been a difficult time over the past few years for everybody,” she said. “However, the (DFS advisory) committee decided it was prudent to put this bill forward to the judiciary team as an interim topic and recommended the change.”
Dr. Jane Venohr, an economist for the Center for Policy Research in Denver, performed the economic report on which DFS bases its proposed changes. She said prices of goods have increased 19% since 2013, but wages have increased as well.
Venohr said her study relied on multiple sources to calculate the cost of raising a child.
Committee Chairman Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, questioned Venohr on the percentage hikes recommended with each additional child, asking about “economy of scale,” or the notion that larger families will have more cost savings per child.
Venohr said the culture has changed so much in the past 15 years that families have lost the economy of scale advantage.
“It used to be if you had a family farm, it might behoove that family to have more children because they can work the fields,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is … you’ve lost that.”
She said families don’t group multiple children into one bedroom as much anymore, and other parenting habits have changed.
Washut voted in favor of the bill, along with Reps. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo; Ken Chestek, D-Laramie; Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland; Ember Oakley, R-Riverton; Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie; and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody.
Reps. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, and Tony Niemiec, R-Green River, voted against HB 12.