If you are in a position where you will either have to pay child support or will be receiving child support, this article provides an overview of the child support laws in the state of Minnesota. When talking with a Minnesota divorce or family law lawyer, the lawyer may frequently refer to our current child support laws as the new child support laws, as opposed to the old child support laws. However, the new child support laws really are not all that new. These laws came into effect in January 2007. Thus, we have been operating under the "new child support laws" for almost five years now.
The old (previous) child support laws, which were in effect from the early 1980s until 2007, required the child support obligor (the parent paying child-support), to pay child support based on a percentage of that parent's net income. These guidelines provided for the individual to pay 25% of his or her net income for one child, 30% for two children, 35% for three children, and so on. Again, this was based on net income which was determined after income taxes were deducted, in addition to the cost of health insurance, a reasonable pension amount and union dues.
As of January 2007, Minnesota has been operating under the “new child support laws.” Child support is currently based on both parties' incomes and is based on gross income, not net income. The amount of child support to be paid is calculated by totaling both parties' gross incomes to arrive at a "combined parental income for determining child support." This parental income is then allocated between the parents based on their proportionate share of the parents' combined income. This is frequently referred to as each parent's "PICS" income. The total amount of child support to be paid based on the parents' combined parental income, may be modified and increased each year. Currently (2011) these amounts can be found on a chart in Minnesota Statute § 518 A .35 Subd. 2.
The current child support laws also provide for a "parenting time adjustment." A child support obligor gets a 12% reduction in his or her child support if he or she has parenting time with the children in excess of 10% of the time. The law presumes that a parent has parenting time at least 10% of the time. The next parenting time adjustment is at 45% of the time. This parenting time adjustment - 45% of the time - seems to be the "battleground" in Court. Thus, if one parent has parenting time of approximately 40% of the time, that parent often times will fight for an additional 5% of the time, because this additional 5% can make a difference of several hundred dollars (and even over a thousand dollars) every month in a potential support obligation.
In my family law practice, I will often compromise with the other parent when either parent may have parenting time between 40% and 45% of the time. In these situations, I may suggest that we "deviate" from the child support guidelines, so there is not a substantial impact if the one parent does not quite have parenting time in excess of 45% of the time. In these cases, it is necessary to fully explain to the Court why we are deviating from the child support guidelines and why the deviation is in the best interests of children.
The current Minnesota child support laws also include provisions to allocate to each parent the cost of medical insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs for the children. The cost for the children's medical insurance premium may be built directly into the child support obligor's monthly child support payment. The out-of-pocket costs are divided based on each parent's respective PICS income. Also, daycare costs may be included within the child support computations and included within the child support obligor's monthly child support payment. Typically, the obligor will pay something less than what his or her PICS income otherwise is, to adjust for the benefits of the daycare credit that the child support obligee (the parent receiving child support) may be entitled to. The contribution towards the children's health insurance premium and contribution towards the children's daycare costs are "in addition to" the basic child support obligation.
Child support can be relatively simple to calculate if both parents are W-2 employees and work 40 hour weeks. Child support can be more complex when one or both of the parents are self-employed or if one or both the parents are unemployed or underemployed. The Minnesota child support laws do provide a presumption that each parent is capable of working a 40 hour week for child support purposes. If a parent does not provide sufficient documentation of his or her income, the Courts could impute “potential income” to that parent based on 150% of the federal minimum wage.
There are many other details of the Minnesota child support laws that I will not discuss in this article. However, as you may have noticed, it is more difficult as a Minnesota divorce lawyer to inform a potential child support client of his or her likely child support obligation under the current child support laws. Prior to 2007, it was easier for a lawyer to inform a client over the telephone of an approximate child support obligation, based on a percentage of that parent's net income.
One useful tool for parents who may be curious of what their child support obligation may be, is the Minnesota child support calculator (http://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/). However the amount of child support calculated by the Minnesota child support calculator is only as good as the numbers that are inserted into the calculator. It is important to seek advice from a Minnesota child support attorney if faced with a child support proceeding whether through a Minnesota divorce proceeding or simply a separate child support matter.