Recently, members of the Utah Legislature's Judicial Interim Committee listened to a lengthy debate on the pros and cons of new child support guidelines.
Such debate hardly seems necessary. Just last June, after an exhaustive study and unprecedented number of public hearings, a Child Support Task Force recommended guidelines of its own to the Judicial Council for adoption.After thorough - even tedious debate - the Judicial Council voted to adopt the guidelines, which become effective Oct. 1. Why, then, are legislators rehashing the same controversial issues?
Members of the Judicial Interim Committee have suggested they may scrap the good work of the Child Support Task Force and begin all over again. Legislators contend that all the issues surrounding divorce - including child custody, visitation rights, collection of payments and gender bias - could be addressed at one time by its own committee.
Not only would this be an unjustifiable waste of time and taxpayer's money, it is unlikely the committee could improve upon the efforts of the 17-member Child Support Task Force. The task force devoted more than a year to studying the complex area of support, using the examples of 42 other states.
Significant compromises were reached through the refining process of debate among task force members themselves, public hearings and testimony through letters.
The scrutiny the guidelines have undergone make it clear that something needs to be done to resolve other painful areas surrounding divorce.
But to continue to rehash the issue of support - just a small piece of the domestic law pie - is to keep a sore wound open.
Let's get on with the process of improving justice in those areas that remain unresolved - visitation, gender bias, collection payments, and custody disputes.
In accepting the support guidelines, the Judicial Council urged the establishment of an oversight committee comprised of judges, non-lawyer citizens, custodial and non-custodial parents.
This committee could evaluate the effectiveness of the guidelines as they are implemented by Utah judges. If changes are needed, the guidelines could be adjusted.
It's time legislators put aside their personal agendas, support the judiciary's guidelines and turn their attention to legitimate concerns over other divorce issues, such as visitation and accountability.