December 21, 2014

Drug tests for parents who collect child support (audio)

Mark Chelgren

Iowa parents paying child support could go to court and ask to have their ex-spouse submit to drug tests every six months under a proposal advanced, but then withdrawn by a Republican in the Iowa Senate. Senator Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa, got the idea from a constituent.

“Because of some consternation and some problems that have arised with his ex-wife, there is a strong belief on his part that she may have gotten involved in drugs,” Chelgren said during debate, “and that the money that is going to the children is instead being diverted to this drug habit.”

Chelgren told his colleagues he wouldn’t name names and didn’t know if the drug-use allegation was true, but he proposed that a person paying child support could get a court order requiring the person who has custody of the kids get a drug test. If that person failed the test or refused to take it, the child support would be paid to a custodian appointed by the court.

“This way the money is actually going for the children and not necessarily to be used on drugs,” Chelgren said.

A few Democrats in the Senate openly laughed as Chelgren explained his proposal. Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, suggested ugly divorces and break-ups would get uglier if this proposal became law.

“We know that it will be used defiantly against one of the parents — ususally against the woman,” Hatch said. “And it would cause the damage not only to the woman but also to the family and to the children to have one parent inappropriately every six months ask for a screening.”

Chelgren responded.

“You know, we do have a drug problem in this state,” Chelgren said. “It doesn’t mean everybody in this state, obviously, is on drugs. It doesn’t mean that every single individual or family member or someone who’s taking care of families is on drugs — clearly, but we shouldn’t be ducking our head and running away every time there’s a difficult issue coming up.”

Chelgren then withdrew his drug-testing proposal, which he was trying to tack onto a much larger bill that outlines state spending for the Iowa Department of Human Services. Chelgren has another proposal he hopes to add to that bill — a requirement that all Iowa welfare recipients submit to random drug tests.

AUDIO of debate on Chelgren’s amendment.