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HB 1032 Revises Child Support Income Thresholds to Recognize Teachers Work Full-Time

The Commission on Child Support proposes House Bill 1032, which we could call the Swalve bill, or the Revising Child Support Calculations to Recognize Teaching Is a Full-Time Job Act.

Recall that last summer, child support referee Forrest C. Allred ruled that Aberdeen middle school teacher/librarian Brandi Swalve had to pay child support based on her primary salary and her secondary income from two part-time jobs. State law says that if a parent works a full-time job, the state won’t apply second-job income to that parent’s child support obligation. In 2010, Allred said teaching was a full-time job and thus didn’t count Swalve’s part-time jobs in calculating her child support obligations. Allred changed his mind in 2016, saying Swalve’s contract hours at Holgate Middle School didn’t meet the state’s 2080-hour definition of full-time. Swalve thus had to pay child support based on her primary salary and her secondary wages, thus cutting the amount she would receive from her ex-husband by about a hundred dollars.

In November, Judge Richard A. Sommers reversed Allred’s decision, saying the state has multiple definitions of full-time and that, for Pete’s sake, teaching is a full-time job.

House Bill 1032 does not mention teachers specifically, but it evades the confusion of multiple full-time definitions by striking full-time from the child support calculation statutes:

  1. Section 2 changes the basis for the minimum child support obligation from “full-time employment at the state minimum wage” to 1,820 hours—35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year—at minimum wage.
  2. Section 4 changes the threshold for primary wages to exclude secondary wages from full-time at minimum wage to minimum wage times 1,820 hours. Thus, the child support referee would not consider how many hours a teacher or any other parent with multiple jobs works; the referee simply looks at the primary job, and if that job’s pay is (1,820 hours × $8.65/hour = ) $15,743, the referee doesn’t count side jobs in calculating child support.

$15,743—that’s plenty to ensure that teachers are viewed as full-time workers in child support calculations. That’s also 78% of the poverty line used in 2016 for a family of three. That’s the minimum effort the Commission on Child Support says each parent should make to support a child.