In the year 2007 the child support laws in the State of Minnesota were changed to form a nexus between the amount of time that a parent has with a child and the amount of child support that the parent must pay. Prior to 2007, the amount of child support paid was contingent on the actual custody label agreed to: if one parent received sole physical custody, then the other parent was required to pay a set amount of child support (with some exceptions).
Now, the custody labels do not have any impact on the amount of child support to be paid, but instead, the amount of “court ordered” time that each parent has with the children is the deciding factor. Specifically, there are two “parenting time adjustments” equivalent to ten percent, and forty-five percent. Some States have several parenting time adjustment tiers, but Minnesota decided to go with just two. So, in Minnesota, if a parent has parenting time with his or her children at least ten percent of the time, that parent will receive a 12% reduction in his or her child support. There is a presumption that each parent has parenting time at least 10 percent of the time, and this usually is a non-issue. If a parent has parenting time at least forty-five percent of the time, that parent will receive a 50% reduction in his or her child support. This is the battleground.
Attaining parenting time of at least 45% of the time has been the goal and the opposition of many child custody litigants. Often (and probably most of the time), the parents sincerely want the most time with their children as possible. However, what has evolved since the inception of the revised child support laws in 2007, is a skepticism by the Courts, by opposing attorneys, in mediation and through custody evaluations that the sole reason a parent is pursuing substantial parenting time is to avoid child support. While this is the case sometimes, it frequently is not the case. Yet, these sincere fathers and mothers fighting for time with their children, are often accused of this.
This is especially the case in a post-decree motion (a Court hearing after the divorce or custody proceeding has been finalized) wherein one parent is requesting additional time with his or her children based on a change in circumstances, but this additional time would incidentally push that parent's total time with the child or children to something more than 45% of the time. It can be very difficult on the parent who legitimately wishes to spend more time with his or her children, when everyone is accusing the parent that he or she simply and solely desires to reduce his or her child support.
As a Minnesota divorce lawyer and child custody lawyer, this issue seems to rear its ugly head at some point in almost all of the divorce and child custody proceedings that my law firm handles. I would advocate adding a couple more “tiers” to the parenting time adjustments, say at 25% and at 35% of the time. This would eliminate the “all or nothing” situation that we currently have regarding the need to have 45% of parenting time to get a discount in child support (excluding the presumed 10% adjustment).