I would like to offer feedback on Rep. Bennett’s bill. This will start with a comparison to existing Oklahoma laws and continue with my Voltron of child support laws, which pulls aspects from several states that offer unique provisions. It is my hope that Rep. Bennett will be inspired to incorporate these examples into future revisions of HB 3129.
Starting in 1965, 10 Okla. Stat. §83(C) allowed ordering the father to pay “all or a portion of the costs of the birth,” which was only the threshold of “prenatal.” The first true prenatal aspect to the state’s child support statutes came in Laws 1997, chapter 402, as a new subsection §83(C)(2) to the existing law. This permitted copies of “bills for pregnancy” to be submitted for reimbursement.
The 1997 change met compliance with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (1996), which added 42 US Code §666(a)(5)(K) to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
Compared to most other states and territories, Oklahoma is only meeting the bare minimum for prenatal child support.
However, 10A Okla. Stat. §1-4-906 also requires child support payments to continue after termination of parentage for a child conceived in rape, as determined by civil standards.
This means the mother can prevent the biological father from ever having contact with the child, regardless of rape conviction — so long as there is enough evidence in civil court — and child support will continue.
House Bill 3129
Rep. Bennett’s proposed bill is fairly brief, at just over two pages. It would create 43 Okla. Stat. §112.1B with the following provisions:
- The father is expected to pay half of prenatal expenses, including:
- Health insurance not already covered by the mother’s employer or by government assistance
- Medical costs from conception to birth
- Payments are retroactive upon establishing paternity.
The bill clarifies some ambiguities in existing law and better allows for assisting the mother during pregnancy.
The addition of paying health insurance premiums is fairly rare among other states, only explicit so far in Hawaii Revised Statutes §584-15(c) and Utah Code § 78B-12-212.1. As written, HB 3129 does not indicate that the father would be expected to reimburse any third-party entities — whether individuals or organizations — that provide health insurance or pay for premiums.
Expecting immediate and equitable payments is not too common among the states yet, as most base their prenatal support on reimbursement of expenses presented in court.
Though the bill does greatly expand Oklahoma’s prenatal child support from the Federal baseline requirements, there is plenty of room for additional provisions.
Suggested Components for Revised Bill
The following are suggestions for Rep. Bennett on what else the proposed legislation could incorporate in a future revision, pulling aspects from various state and territorial statutes:
Regarding reimbursement of expenses paid by a third-party (county)
“pay the costs of prosecution and the expenses incurred by such county for the lying-in and support of and attendance upon the mother during her sickness“
Regarding a way to succinctly include the unborn among general support laws
“A child conceived but not yet born is to be deemed an existing person insofar as this section is concerned.”
Regarding reimbursement of health insurance premiums
“reasonable expenses of the mother’s pregnancy and confinement, including but not limited to medical insurance premiums, such as for MedQuest,”
Regarding loss of parental rights for failure to support
“a father, after having knowledge of the pregnancy, failed without reasonable cause to provide support for the mother during the six months prior to the child’s birth;”
Regarding the mother’s lost wages during pregnancy
“reasonable expenses of the mother’s pregnancy and confinement, including the mother’s lost wages due to medical necessity”
Regarding legislative intent to protect the unborn
“the laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development, all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state…”
Regarding reimbursement of expenses paid by a third-party (town)
Wisconsin Revised Statutes, 1849, §11-31 (Acts 1848, ch. 31)
“also pay all expenses, if any, incurred by such town for the lying and the support and attendance upon the mother of such child during her sickness”
Hopefully these examples from other states will help Rep. Bennett draft prenatal child support legislation that will move Oklahoma from the baseline requirements to being at the forefront of the nation.