By Justin Snow
The House of Delegates narrowly passed a bill on Wednesday that would exclude individuals from making child support payments while serving a prison sentence.
Under the legislation, child support payments would be suspended for anyone incarcerated for more than 18 consecutive months and continuing 60 days after their release to avoid the accrual of an unmanageable lump sum.
Excluded from the law would be anyone on work release, with assets determined to be sufficient to pay support, or who committed a crime with the intent of being incarcerated in order to avoid child support payments. The last provision raised questions from some delegates.
“You would be surprised at the length to which some people will go to not pay child support,” said floor leader Del. Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery.
The bill was approved 78-61, with opponents arguing that it was inherently unfair to children.
Explaining his red vote, Del. H. Wayne Norman, R-Harford, stated that credit card payments and other debts continue during incarceration, and so should child support payments.
“There’s no debt more important than the obligation you have to your own children,” said Norman.
Regulation of posthumous sperm and egg use approved
Also approved in the House was a bill providing guidance to the courts for a murky area of the law regarding sperm and egg donations.
The bill would prohibit the use of donated sperm or eggs after the donor’s death without his or her prior permission. Donors would have to provide written, signed and notarized consent that their sperm or eggs can be used after their death.
Sponsored by Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s, the bill would most directly affect military families who have struggled with the legal implications of Social Security survivor benefits for children artificially inseminated after a parent’s death. The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing arguments on a case involving such a scenario Monday.
During debate on Tuesday, delegates raised questions about an area of the law that remains largely uncharted.
Del. C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, questioned who would be considered the birth mother under the law if a husband had the right to use the eggs of his deceased wife in a surrogate mother. According to Pena-Melnyk, the birth mother would still be listed as the mother on the birth certificate.
The House voted 97-36 in favor of the bill on Wednesday.