As the number of child support payments in Montana rises to $5,500 per month, lawmakers are debating whether to give state lawmakers more flexibility in how they handle child support cases.
The state currently caps the amount of child care a parent can receive, but some lawmakers want to increase the number to $1,000 per month.
Some lawmakers also want to limit how much children can spend on entertainment.
A bill introduced in the state Legislature last week would allow child support recipients to waive the need to pay child support.
Under current law, a child who is unable to work due to a disability or to care for a parent who is disabled would be considered to be unemployed.
The bill also would allow a parent to get the money paid to a child that would otherwise be a burden to the parent.
Under the bill, child support will be paid only if the parent is unable or unable to pay it, but if a child is unable due to disability or caregiving responsibilities, the child can be awarded child support even if the person cannot work.
The new law would allow parents to waive child support if they have been unable to meet their obligations to pay the child support and are able to pay a child support amount that is less than $5 of a child’s annual salary, as determined by the state.
The bill also includes an expansion of the state’s Child Support Enforcement Division, which would be able to issue orders to garnish wages and collect child support for up to five children at once.
The Department of Social Services would also be able set up a website where parents can see what is owed and be able appeal a child custody order.
A similar bill has been introduced in Congress by Democrat Jared Polis, but Polis’ bill does not include the waiver provision.
In the meantime, Montana lawmakers are trying to figure out how to make sure parents who have been in arrears of child custody payments are not left behind by other cases in the system.
The new bill also provides more money for other family court appeals, which could help with child support arrearages.
Montana currently pays child support through an administrative process and does not require a hearing to appeal a final order.
It also allows child support garnishment orders to go out once a parent has made payments to a support provider, and the bill would allow an order to be stayed if a parent does not have access to a parent-approved custodial provider.
The child support cap has helped Montana families get by, but lawmakers are still considering how to fix the child-support system, and some lawmakers are not sure they want to expand the system to include child support as a mandatory component of paying child support because of its high costs.