Bill allowing retroactive child support from moment of conception advances in Senate

February 28, 2024 | 12:10 am

Updated February 28, 2024 | 12:17 am

Graphic by Owensboro Times

A bill amendment that would allow Kentuckians to retroactively collect child support from the moment of conception was unanimously passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday morning.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, told the committee that child support obligations should start when life begins, “and I think we ought to be able to go after that.” 

Senate Bill 110 would allow courts to order child support to cover the prior 9 months leading up to a child’s birth, as long as the order is entered within the first year after the child is born. If an order is filed after the child turns 1, no retroactive child support can be collected.

Westerfield said he has spoken with the Kentucky County Attorneys Association about costs related to the bill. He said child support programs are entirely funded by federal dollars and that reporting requirements for reimbursement are strict. 

He said federal guidelines only allow child support to be collected once a child is born, and county attorneys could not use those federal resources to enforce orders before then. 

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, the committee’s chair, said it’s unchartered waters if retroactivity would prevent them from receiving any funding. But he said he likes the bill from a moral perspective.

“That’s where life starts, and that’s where that obligation to take care of that child should begin. And I think it’s a fundamental fairness issue that we do this,” he said.

Sen. Greg Elkins, R-Winchester, told Westerfield he really likes what the bill is designed to do. However, he also cited concerns over resources for county attorneys and asked how much the change would cost. 

Westerfield said he didn’t know yet but said it’s worth asking prosecutors or the courts for data. 

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, also voted for the bill, but said she reserves the right to vote against it later. 

“I had concerns that the prior version had created an in-utero cause of action that could have had some downstream consequences like what we saw in Alabama,” she said. “This version addresses my concerns, and that’s because the cause of action only arises after there has been a healthy birth of a child and then you can retroactively seek support.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

February 28, 2024 | 12:10 am

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