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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bill to increase child support fees little opposition from legislators

In addition to cost-of-living expenses, extra child support payments could be required for activities like sports and music lessons if House Bill 339 is approved in by the state legislature.
House Bill 339 by state Rep. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, allows judges the right to order additional payments for children’s extracurricular activities.
State Sen. Nick Gautreaux, D-Meaux, was able to piggyback legislation to redirect gambling winnings to pay for overdue child support.
Some senators fear the bill could place too much of a financial burden on those paying child support.
“The intent of the bill is good – very good,” state Sen. Jody Amedee, D-Gonzales said. “But I don’t think we need to keep adding and adding and adding.”
State Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie, said the legislation is important to ensure that children of divorced parents who want to participate in extracurricular activities are not penalized.
Members of the Louisiana group promoting shared parenting and fair child support laws in Louisiana, LaDads, oppose the bill, citing many reasons.
In a letter to the state Senate, LaDads member Robert D. Black, Jr. asked senators to vote against the bill.
“I am all for extra events, camps, etc … but if someone couldn’t afford them while they were married, how is he or she going to afford them when they are divorced?” wrote Black.
“Plus, what guarantees do you have in place that even if these events are paid for that the mother will actually take [the child] the events or even [that the extra child support] is spent on those events to begin with?” asked Black in his letter to the Senate.
Black also pointed out the lack of accountability for funds already being paid for child support by divorced parents.
In his own letter to the state Senate, LaDads president Nicholas James referred to current Louisiana child support laws that he said allow a judge to order a parent to pay child support exceeding 100 percent of his or her gross income.
“Now, instead of seeking to correct these problems, the Legislature actually seeks to make them worse by adding on yet another way for a judge to make an order exceeding 100 percent of a person’s gross income,” James wrote.
HB 339 was approved by the Senate 23-12. The bill previously breezed through the House without a single opposing vote but must go back to the House for final amendment concurrence.

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