Author Topic: Kansas Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes (Sept. 2014)  (Read 1768 times)

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Kansas Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee
September 26, 2014
9:30 a.m.
Minutes
Members present: Hon. Thomas Foster, chair; Sherri Loveland; Bill McCain; Brian Mull; Amy Beardy; Hon. Constance Alvey; Doni Mooberry; Charles Harris; Hon. Amy Harth; Carol Park; Larry Rute; Professor Linda Elrod; and Melissa Johnson.
Guests: Brad Short; Jodi Messer-Pelkowski, PhD.
Staff: Mark Gleeson
Review and Approval of Minutes from August 22, 2014
The minutes from the August 22, 2014, meeting were reviewed. Charlie Harris made a motion to approve the minutes as submitted, Hon. Constance Alvey seconded, motion passed.
Preliminary Economist’s Report
Dr. Pelkowski provided some basic information about the Income Shares Model. About 40 states use the Income Shares Model while the rest use a straight percentage of income or a Melson Formula based model.
The underlying premise of the income shares model is that if the two parents who lived together divorce, you use the percentage of the combined income to determine each parent’s child support obligation. The concept is the same for unmarried parents.
The formula for how the schedules are derived is contained in the memo “Determining the 2010 Child Support Schedules” written by Economists William T. Terrell, Ph.D., and Jodi Messer-Pelkowski, Ph.D. This is not included in the guidelines but it is available on the Kansas Judicial Branch website.
The “dissolution burden,” known in other states as a “self-support reserve,” was discussed. The Kansas child support guidelines incorporate a dissolution burden which is a reduction to the child support obligation that compensates parents for the need to maintain two households, support the children in the pre-
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divorce circumstance, and not hurt the parents. It was felt that the term may be confusing as the dissolution burden is only on housing and utilities. Dr. Pelkowski will write an explanation of the dissolution burden.
Dr. Pelkowski answered questions posed to her by the committee. The questions are in Italics and a summary of her response follows.
Do we need to make any changes to the tables?
No. She is comfortable with the method used to create the tables. Other states are using income shares model. In her analysis, Dr. Pelkowski compares Kansas to other states and Kansas is comparable in their overall child support obligations.
In the past, Kansas has been ranked in the middle not only for overall child support obligation but also in the cost of living and consumer expenditures. The Interstate Cost of Living Differential tables are one measure of this. Dr. Pelkowski indicated that Kansas’ ranking in all of the measures remains fairly stable.
Do you have general thoughts on collapsing the different age categories?
One of the basic principals underlying the guidelines is that the money should go to the party providing for the child while in their care. Using Economic data to determine spending on children at different ages and including that analysis into the child support schedules is an important way to adhere to that principal.
Is the use of the age categories more difficult for families than if we did not have different age categories?
Anecdotal reports are that people do not come to court for a modification simply because the child moves to a new age bracket.
Why do the child support schedules stop at $15,500 combined gross monthly income?
Currently, the Kansas Child Support Guidelines provide child support obligations for combined gross incomes from $50 to $15,500 per month. Although the original guidelines did not include an extension of the formula, one was added to the guidelines in 1994. The formula to extend the schedule beyond the published amount is included on each child support schedule in Appendix II. The reason the schedules stop at $15,500 is not many families have a combined income level
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above that amount. Additionally, Dr. Pelkowski does not have the data to extend the tables beyond $15,500 because, in part, few people who earn that much per month publish their information about individual incomes. This type of expenditure data is collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which does not publicize individual expenditures data because of privacy issues. Dr. Pelkowski is not comfortable giving the committee expected expenditures past income levels that the information is available.
Dr. Pelkowski provided the committee with a letter from an attorney requesting that the guidelines be based on a formula believed to be more accurate than using the tables. The guidelines, however, require rounding to the nearest dollar and the difference in the child support obligation when using the tables or the formula is very small.
Should there be special consideration for items such as cell phones, private schools, extracurricular activities, and vehicle expenses?
Dr. Pelkowski reported that 78% of teenagers have cell phones. Spending on cell phones is factored in to the economic data for 2012/2013 which she has examined.
Rather than ask “Who is paying for the cell phones?” the better question might be, “What is the unique item that one family might spend money on compared to another family?” Families make different choices on what they spend money on. These special spending characteristics of families are built into the schedules.
The committee asked if the “clothing” percentage was determined by looking at the Mark Leno data. Dr. Pelkowski will look at other data sources to see if there are differences in spending on clothing for the different age groups. The same applies to vehicle expenses which are already incorporated into the schedules.
Dr. Pelkowski reported that school lunches are incorporated into the expenditures and are reflected in the Kansas child support schedules. There was discussion about the circumstance of one household qualifying for free or reduced lunch. This happens often and is not an issue covered in the child support schedules. The current Kansas child support schedules have conflicting instructions regarding whether school lunches are a direct or indirect expense. Jodi will look into this and get back to the committee.
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The committee asked for clarification of the 5%, 10%, and 15% numbers and where the numbers originated.
Jodi did not know where the 5%, 10%, and 15% numbers came from and disavows herself from any connection with this. The percentages came from consideration of differing amounts of time a parent was caring for a child and the expense associated with caring for that child. This is a shift of in-house cost for one parent and cannot be applied to both parents.
Dr. Pelkowski was asked why the log equation was used.
She provided a table showing the impact of the formula on One-Child families and Two-Child families. Comparing the current model with the defined combined gross income levels to a scenario where the formula would be estimated with a linear model, the chart shows that for 2006 and 2010 expenditure data the amount would be either higher or lower than the current method of determining child support obligations.
The committee asked if it would be reasonable to move the 13% – 18% multiplier in the Equal Parenting Time formula higher in the worksheet so that the division is proportional and not 50/50 as it is now.
Dr. Pelkowski agreed with this provided it is applied to the other percentages as well.
There have been a number of problems reported with the “Not less than zero” rule in the Equal Parenting Time worksheet.
Dr. Pelkowski stated that the rule is not supported by the data and that although it would be unusual, it is possible that the lower income parent may have to pay the higher income parent and that there is no economic basis for the current rule. There was a consensus of the committee that this be eliminated.
The committee was asked to consider a circumstance where more than two parents might have a child support obligation.
When there is an adoption involving a step-parent or a same sex couple, the other parent loses parental rights. This is not an issue that the committee needs to address with the Economist and there was general consensus that given the information available to the committee, it was not necessary to modify the
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worksheet or the Rule to accommodate circumstances where there are more than two parents.
Equal Parenting Time Issues From Brad Short
Brad Short discussed issues related to Equal Parenting Time. These issues were largely addressed in Dr. Pelkowski’s presentation.
Mr. Short also indicated that the Kansas Child Care Tax Credit no longer exists and should be removed from the guidelines.
Mr. Short reported that the Kansas Child Support Guidelines do not include a definition for “primary or non-primary residential parent.” He recommends that the court designate who is primary and who is non-primary residential parent as the failure to do so creates a significant problem in shared parenting. Committee members were in general agreement that designating someone as a non-primary residential parent can create significant conflicts because neither parent wants to be the non-primary residential parent. There are circumstances where one parent needs to be declared a primary residential parent for school purposes, but for child support this can create a lot of conflict between parents.
Larry Rute will explore alternative language to avoid this problem.
VA Disability Payments Considered as Income
Charlie Harris led a discussion regarding VA disability payments including the loss of income resulting from an injury. Should VA disability payments be considered income? This is comparable to the workers compensation model. The Department for Children and Families (DCF) cannot send an income withholding order to attach to VA disability unless it is being paid as a payment in lieu of retirement if the retirement payment were higher.
There is a Texas statute that would apply to this. Brad Short will provide the committee with the citation to the Texas statute.
The issue was tabled and Charlie Harris will continue to research this issue and provide additional information to the committee.
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Other Issues
The Petition for Review in the Johnson v Johnson case has been filed and Charlie has submitted his response.
Worksheet
Files need to have a worksheet that is signed by the judge.
Staff Report
The contract with Wichita State University is near completion.
The Kansas Judicial Branch website providing information on the Kansas Child Support Guidelines needs to be updated. This will be discussed at the October meeting.
A Microsoft Word version of the guidelines will be provided to committee members.
Next Meeting
October 24, 2014, Kansas Judicial Center, Conference Room 269
 Affordable Care Act subcommittee report.
 Proposal to amend worksheet with instructions to have the judge sign the worksheet.