Senate approves bill providing retroactive child support for pregnancy

Published 3:45 pm Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Sen. Whitney Westerfield’s bill opening up child support for the time between conception and birth got Senate approval Tuesday in a 36-2 vote.

“I believe life begins at conception,” said Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill. “But even if you don’t, there’s no question that there are obligations and costs involved in having a child before that child is born.”

He said Senate Bill 110 is intended to help with those financial obligations.

What’s in the bill?

Senate Bill 110 would allow mothers to claim child support for the nine months they were pregnant within the first year of their child’s birth.

An earlier version would have allowed mothers to collect child support from the time of conception, before their child was born, but concerns about potential in-utero causes of action pushed Westerfield to amend the bill.

Under the bill, if a child support order is filed anytime in the child’s first year, then the mother can retroactively capture the time between conception and birth in her child support order.

Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, expressed gratitude for the amended bill. He said that he believes that the other parent should be helping out.

“This is a way to love and support women who have carried that baby,” he said.

SB110 got unanimous committee approval. Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, said that it had the potential to help a lot of low-income, single mothers.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, said that while this bill explores “uncharted waters,” he thinks it’s a good step for a largely pro-life Commonwealth.

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

Westerfield did raise some potential complications, though. The county attorneys association told him that their enforcement of child support is entirely funded by the federal government, which tracks billing very closely. If they don’t meet their standards, the association is not reimbursed.

“This would not be covered,” Westerfield said. “The federal guidelines we have to comply with are pretty strict, and I don’t like it. But it says that it only counts and you can only collect once the child is born.”

The office would have to pay for any enforcement of this bill on its own. Westerfield didn’t know how much it would cost, or the average number of child support claims within a year of a child’s birth. He doesn’t anticipate a large number, though.

“At the end of the day, I’m willing to support it even not having that information because that child has a human life and the support obligation begins as soon as that life begins,” he said.