On March 19, 2021, Governor Beshear signed House Bill 404 into law, significantly overhauling the child support statutes originally enacted in 1990. The new laws are not effective until March 1, 2022. Below are the highlights:
1) Increases in the child support schedule:
- The highest combined parental income increased from $15,000 to $30,000. Previously, if a couple earned more than $15,000, a parent had to prove the child needed more support than the scheduled amount, else support capped at the top of the schedule unless the parties agreed otherwise.
- The amounts in the schedule were increased. Previously, a family with a combined income of $15,000 had a total support obligation of $1225 for one child. Now the total support obligation is $1430. For a combined income of $25,000, the amount was previously $1225, because the scheduled maxed at $15,000. Now it is $1,863. This amount is proportionately divided between the parties, but subject to further calculation based upon the amount of parenting time and payment for health insurance and childcare.
2) The amount of extraordinary medical expenses to be paid by the party receiving child support before the paying party is required to reimburse any portion of the expenses increased from $100 per child per calendar year to $250. This rule is often not followed in equal parenting time cases.
3) The law created a “self-support reserve” that considers the needs of the paying parent to support themselves when imputing income in the child support calculation.
4) The Court can now find that a parent voluntarily unemployed or underemployed themselves without requiring proof that it was intentional. The Court can impute income to them after considering factors such as their assets, residence, employment and earning history, skills, education, age, health, criminal record, record of seeking work, local job market, prevailing wage, and other factors that are barriers to employment.
5) A method of calculating child support for shared parenting cases has finally been established. Previously, deviations to child support in shared parenting cases were at the discretion of the Court which varied by County.
- The Court must consider the number of “overnight stays” each parent exercises, then provides for a calculation based upon equal parenting time or unequal parenting time. The law now provides that merely providing a place to sleep for a child does not constitute an overnight stay. The Court can consider who is feeding, transporting, entertaining, helping with schoolwork, attending activities and athletic events, and paying for other expenses of the child when determining whether time is equal.
- The Court can consider the likelihood of a parent to exercise their parenting time when determining whether to deviate from the child support guidelines. They can also consider the ability of the obligated parent to maintain basic necessities for the child in their home, geographical distance between the parties, and whether all of the children are actually exercising shared parenting.
This new law does not mean that people receiving support will automatically get an increase. The law still requires a change of at least 15% or more in a parties’ child support obligation before the Court can modify child support.