PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The deadlock over raising child-support payments in South Dakota has been resolved. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously endorsed the revised payment schedule and an accompanying bill from the South Dakota Child Support Commission that met for the past year.

The changes to the payment schedule are the first since 2016.

“One of the most important things that I’ve learned in this legislation is that, you know, sometimes when you bring a bill you want the whole apple. Sometimes three-fourths of it is really good, too,” Representative Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, told the committee.

The panel voted 6-0 for the payment changes in HB 1278 and the various changes to state child-support laws in HB 1279. The chairman, Senator Art Rusch, R-Vermillion, who also served on the commission, put both bills on the Senate consent calendar for Monday because they were uncontested in committee.

Should they get approval from the Senate, the new payment schedule would go to Governor Kristi Noem for her review, while the companion bill would return to the House for a decision whether to accept the Senate committee’s version.

Representative Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids, had led half the House to initially reject the new schedule 32-35. He and Stevens then worked out an agreement that led to the House voting 63-4 to let it proceed to the Senate.

Stevens described their compromise as a “win-win.” The amendment was made Thursday to the companion bill. It reduces the number of nights to six from the current 10 that a child must spend with the non-custodial parent in order to make that parent eligible for consideration for a payment reduction.

“It then really encourages those parents who are not spending time with their kids to do that,” Stevens said. He praised Pischke. “It made the bill better.”

Pischke thanked Stevens for “being a true statesman and a man of his word” for working out the amendment. “It really is in the best interest of everybody in the system,” Pischke told the committee Thursday.

He offered the senators an insight into his side as a non-custodial parent.

“You know, I come from a different perspective on this and I live in a different world,” Pischke said. “And this system, I really hope at some point we can have a summer study and really review how the system works, because in my opinion, it’s really a system built for a society that’s no longer here. It’s built for a non-custodial who basically washed their hands of their kids and walked away and say ‘Hey, I think it’s best if they just stay with this parent, I’m going to go do my own thing and go get another job, and just support them monetarily.’ And that’s not how I am as a father. I think you guys all know that.”

Pischke said that’s why he objected to the higher schedule.

“This makes me more like a paycheck to my children, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m actually trying to be there for them, and that’s why this amendment is so important to me, because I want to be there for my kids,” Pischke told the senators. “And I want to, I want to be more than just a paycheck. So I apologize for being emotional, but this is, this is an emotional issue for me. It might seem silly, since we’re talking about dollars here, but it’s more than dollars.”

He added, “This is almost a square peg going through a round hole. It does not work for everybody. It truly doesn’t. And I’m one of those people it doesn’t work for.” He referred to some Stanley County High School students who were visiting the committee. “Half of marriages end in divorce nowadays, you know. That means every other boy back here might be in the same situation I am. So these bills are important to you guys. They are important. I just want you guys to realize that and think about that as you’re passing through.”

The two lawmakers shook hands as Pischke returned to his seat.

Senator Timothy Johns, R-Lead, asked fellow senators on the committee to recommend passage of the two bills. Johns, who’s a retired circuit judge and continues to practice law, recalled getting out of law school 48 years ago and described child support back then as “a real crapshoot.”

“You had huge disparities between what one parent might be paying and a similar case where another parent might be paying. The guidelines were necessary. They provide excellent guidance for the judge to set the child support,” Johns said.

He continued, “That’s the best thing we’ve ever done in respect to support of children. It’s worked well. I know people don’t like having to pay child support. They feel like ‘I’ll contribute other ways,’ is what you hear all the time. But it’ll cost money to raise a child. Then if you’re going to be separating households, you double the expenses but you haven’t doubled the income, and that’s part of the problem oftentimes you have.

“They’re just absolutely necessary. Some people think they’re too high, but we’ve got to keep up with inflation as well. So I think the (commission) has done an excellent job and I would congratulate all the members,” Johns said.