PIERRE, SD (KELO) — The standoff over increasing child support payments in South Dakota has been resolved. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved the revised payment schedule and an accompanying bill from the South Dakota Child Support Commission that met last year.
The changes to the payment schedule are the first since 2016.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this legislation is, you know, sometimes when you bring a bill, you want the whole apple. Sometimes three-quarters is really good too,” Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, told the committee.
The panel voted 6-0 for the payout changes in HB 1278 and various changes to state child support laws in HB 1279. The chairman, Sen. Art Rusch, R-Vermillion, who also served on the committee, put the two bills on the Senate approval schedule for Monday because they were not challenged in committee.
If they get Senate approval, the new payment schedule would go to Gov. Kristi Noem for her review, while the companion bill would come back to the House for a decision on whether to accept the Senate committee’s version.
Rep. Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids, led half of the House to initially reject the new 32-35 schedule. He and Stevens then crafted a deal that resulted in the House voting 63 to 4 to let him through to the Senate.
Stevens described their compromise as a “win-win.” The amendment was made to the supplementary bill on Thursday. 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 a payment reduction.
“It really encourages parents who don’t spend time with their kids to do so,” Stevens said. He praised Pischke. “It improved the bill.”
Pischke thanked Stevens “for being a true statesman and a man of his word” for crafting the amendment. “It’s really in the best interests of everyone in the system,” Pischke told the committee Thursday.
He offered senators a glimpse of 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 that 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 doesn’t It’s designed for a non-custodial who basically washed their hands of their kids and walked away and said, “Hey, I think it’s best if they stay with that parent, I’m going to do my own thing and go get another job, and just support them financially.’ And that’s not how I am as a father. I think you all know that.
Pischke said that’s why he opposed the higher schedule.
“It feels more like a paycheck for my kids, and it doesn’t feel like I’m 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 senators. “And I want, 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 may sound silly, since we’re talking dollars here, but it’s more than dollars.
He added: “It’s almost a square peg going through a round hole. It doesn’t work for everyone. This is really not the case. And I’m one of those people for whom it doesn’t work. He referred to some Stanley County High School students who were visiting the committee. “Half the marriages end in divorce these days, you know. That means all the other boys here could be in the same situation as me. These invoices are therefore important to you. They are important. I just want you to realize this and think about it as you go through.
The two lawmakers shook hands as Pischke returned to his seat.
Senator Timothy Johns, R-Lead, asked his fellow senators on the committee to recommend passage of both bills. Johns, who is a retired circuit judge and continues to practice law, recalled leaving law school 48 years ago and described child support at the time as “a real throw of the dice”.
“You had huge disparities between what one parent could pay and a similar case where another parent could pay. The guidelines were needed. They provide excellent advice for the judge to set child support,” said said Johns.
He continued: “It’s the best thing we’ve ever done in child support. It worked well. I know people don’t like having to pay child support. They feel like “I’ll contribute in other ways” is what you hear all the time. But raising a child costs money. Then if you’re going to separate the households, you’re doubling the expenses but you haven’t doubled the income, and that’s often part of the problem you have.
“They are just absolutely necessary. Some people think they are too high, but we also have to keep up with inflation. So I think the (commission) did a great job and I commend all the members,” Johns said.