No. 8. Child Care Costs for Stay-at-Home Moms?
Child Care Costs Amendment (SB 263). This law allows a judge to impute a monthly obligation for child care costs when it imputes income to a parent who is providing child care for the minor child of both parties so that the parties are not incurring child care costs for the child.
My take: Did that explanation make any sense to you? I’ve read this statute several times and I still can’t make heads or tails of it.
Utah law provides that income for child support purposes may be imputed (meaning that the party doesn’t actually make this amount but the Court determines that the person is capable to make a certain amount based upon work history, case law, etc). Of note, current Utah law already provides that income may not be imputed to a party if “the reasonable costs of child care for the parents’ minor children approach or equal the amount of income the custodial parent can earn.” Often this means that the parent providing care is not imputed income or given an income of $0.
This new law seeks to remedy a perceived gap in the law that the above sections don’t address. Frankly, I just find this law confusing. While sometimes the committee hearing helps clarify the situation, in this case it only revealed that this was a bill aimed toward a narrow constituency – stay-at-home moms who perceive that imputed income is taking away from their child support.
In my mind the new law creates as many questions as it seeks to remedy and it is not clear to me how to interpret this section. I suppose one way to interpret it is that the stay at home parent is essentially accruing an imputed balance for child care costs equal to the cost he/she is saving the parties by providing at home care. This imputed balance can then be used against the stay at home parent’s share of any actual child care costs that may be incurred during the month. If this is how this section is to be read, the law simply makes no sense because if a party is providing care “so that the parties are not incurring child care costs” then under what circumstances would there also be “actual child care costs” incurred within the same month? Also, the law does not answer the fundamental question of whether the whole cost of the imputed child care cost is available or only the stay home parent’s “share” of the cost? Finally, the law does not address the question of what basis the imputed child care costs should be determined. State run day care? Premium day care? What is the appropriate standard to deduct?
Alternatively, if this law is read to allow the stay-at-home parent some kind of offset for the savings of in home child care, how exactly is it applied against either imputed income for child support purposes or does it require the non stay-at-home parent to make an actual payment equal to half of the imputed child care cost? The law certainly doesn’t go that far in its plain language, but with language as vague as the new Utah Code 78B-12-215(3), either reading is plausible.