S.D. child-support proposal has been revised, so no income brackets would see smaller payments

Capitol News Bureau
KELO South Dakota capitol Pierre legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s Child Support Commission has made a big change to its recommendations.

The commission no longer wants any custodial parent who currently receives a full payment to receive a smaller amount.

The commission previously recommended reductions for parents at lower income levels.

That was because many non-custodial parents in South Dakota have difficulty making full payments each month to the custodial parents, especially when the two parents have lower amounts of combined net income.

The theory was that reductions would make it easier for non-custodial parents at lower incomes to make full payments and reduce the need for enforcement actions.

Virgena Wieseler, who oversees various child programs for the state Department of Social Services, told the commission Friday that the frequency was “about half and half” in the lowest combined-income brackets that non-custodial parents actually make full payments to custodial parents every month.

The commission was scheduled to submit its report to the governor and the Legislature and end its work no later than December 31, 2021. Governor Kristi Noem however issued an executive order on December 30 extending the commission through March 31, 2022.

Her extension came on the heels of the commission proposing the reductions for lower-income parents when it last met November 18.

Representative Mike Stevens, a commission member, said Friday it would be difficult for him to explain to other legislators why the commission recommended reducing support at lower incomes when inflation has been causing prices to rise.

The commission’s report remains unfinished. Wieseler told the commission Friday that the draft would be reworked in the coming days and then sent to the members for final review.

That is significant, because the Legislature will decide whether to put the commission’s recommendations into state law. The 2022 legislative session opens Tuesday, January 11, and is scheduled to run through March 28.

South Dakota Supreme Court Justice Scott Myren chairs the commission. “Legislative session starts next week, so time is of the essence,” Myren said. 

No one in the meeting Friday publicly mentioned the governor, other than the executive order. Wieseler said she showed the November recommendations to people in the Department of Social Services and questions arose about the reductions. No one else spoke about the source of the concerns.

The reductions that the commission originally recommended on November 18 would have affected parents differently, depending on the amounts of their monthly combined incomes.

Those reductions would have applied at these levels:

  • For parents of one child, a combined net monthly income of $5,700 or less.
  • For parents of two children, a combined net monthly income of $3,350 or less.
  • For parents of three or four children, a combined net monthly income of $2,300 or less.
  • For parents of five children, a combined net monthly income of $2,200 or less.
  • For parents of six children, a combined net monthly income of $2,450 or less.

Instead, the commission on Friday recommended a different schedule, known as Option A, that consultant Jane Venohr developed at Wieseler’s request.

“The consequence is no change at lower incomes,” Venohr said. She later added, “It does no harm for those families that are receiving their full amount of child support now.”

The proposal adopted Friday would increase amounts throughout much of the schedule and eliminate all previously recommended reductions.

For example, for one child whose parents have a combined net monthly income of $950 or less, the existing schedule calls for the non-custodial parent to pay $79 per month to the custodial parent. That amount would have gone down to $50 per month under the November recommendation. Under Option A, it would stay at $79.

For one child whose parents have a combined net monthly income of $1,101 to $1,150, the existing schedule calls for a payment of $266 per month. That would have gone down to $77. Under Option A, it would stay at $266.

After the meeting, the governor’s spokesman issued this statement to KELOLAND News. “With the increase in the nation’s cost of living, the board convened to further analyze any decrease in child support,” Ian Fury said.

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