Changes to Minnesota Child Support Laws Coming Soon

Effective August 1st, 2018 Minnesota child support laws will change. Specifically, the method used to calculate the parent expense adjustment. 

A child support order collectively consists of 3 types of support:

1. Basic support –  basic needs of a child (food, shelter, clothing, etc.)

2. Medical support – a monthly portion paid to the parent who is providing health & dental care coverage for the child, a contribution towards public coverage and/or sharing in the uninsured or unreimbursed expenses incurred by the child. 

3. Child care support – childcare costs incurred while a parent works or attends school.

Under the current law enacted in 2007, a child support order is calculated based on an "income shares" model. Under that model, both parents’ incomes are added together to create a total parental income. The purpose of that is to essentially put the children in the same financial situation they would be in had the parents remained together. Each parent is then to pay a portion of the total child support obligation based on his or her percentage of the combined income. That calculation is based on the following 5 factors that are in effect today:

  1. Parent A’s gross monthly income
  2. Parent B’s gross monthly income
  3. The monthly cost for day care, if any
  4. The monthly cost for medical and dental insurance coverage
  5. The amount of parenting time the parents have using a 0%-10%, 10%-45% and 45.1% or more parenting time schedule – this adjusts the child support obligation depending on the amount of parenting time the parties have with the children.

The 5th factor can cause some problems as parents in the 10-45% category could have parenting time every other weekend or they could be on a nearly 50/50 parenting schedule, yet they would pay the same amount in support while having very different arrangements. This can lead to contention over one overnight, which could bump a parent into the 45.1-50% category, significantly reducing his or her support obligation. 

This final factor will now change to where child support takes into consideration the exact number of court ordered overnights the parents have with the children on an annual basis vs. these three categories spanning wide percentage ranges.

Though an “income shares” model will still be used, the new law eliminates the far-reaching differences in the parenting expense adjustment categories. Rather than having the sharp cut offs between people who have parenting time in the three categories mentioned above, there is a more comprehensive equation that results in a gradual increase or decrease in support depending on parenting time. This will result in more consistent and fair child support orders. It should also result in less conflict over extra days with children simply for child support sake. Additionally, it is assumed that if a parent has more than 55% parenting time, that parent’s child support obligation will be set at $0. That is a major change from the current model, which still requires a parent with a majority of parenting time pay child support in certain circumstances. 

Most divorce decrees and court orders do not assign parents a specific number of overnights on a monthly or yearly basis. It may be necessary in some cases to return to family court to determine the specific number of overnights to best calculate child support. This amendment to the current law does not create enough substantial change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying an existing child support order. There needs to be some other reason to bring the motion to modify child support other than the changed law. If you believe these new changes may affect you or you have questions concerning child support, contact our office to set up a free consultation.

The Minnesota Department of Health provides an online calculator allowing parents to calculate child support based upon the five factors in place today. An updated calculator to determine support obligation is expected from the Department of Human Services, though it has not yet been released. 

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