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Minnesota Child Support

Child support issues are hard to handle…without a lawyer’s help. They Involve complexities, calculations, and systems unfamiliar to non-lawyers.

Minnesota has a guideline system to identify the amount a noncustodial parent must pay a custodial parent as “child support,” an amount intended to help a primary parent meet a child’s ordinary day-to-day expenses.

How is the correct amount of child support calculated? What information and documents are needed to verify income amounts? How are the kids’ daycare costs, insurance premiums, and uninsured medical expenses shared (and collected)? Are payments made directly between the parties or wage withheld? Where are payments made? Who monitors payments to assure they are made? Is there mandatory language that must be included in judgments and orders? Are support orders modifiable? How frequently? How does the system handle income that fluctuates from year to year? How do courts handle bonus income? When can back support be ordered?

Questions abound. You’ll want to visit with a good family lawyer for full detailed answers, but we hope to answer some of the more common questions below.

Common Questions About Minnesota Child Support Laws

How is child support calculated in Minnesota?

There is a child support calculator available to you online. Before you start the calculator, you should have the information listed here.

  • The parent who will have physical custody of the child(ren);
  • The amount of visitation the non-custodial parent will exercise with the child(ren) (counted in overnights, in percentages, less than 10%, 10-45%, or at least 45.1%);
  • Both parents’ gross monthly wages from all sources of income;
  • If one parent is unemployed, what is that parent’s potential gross monthly wages (i.e. what did they earn prior to unemployment, or what are the wages from unemployment);
  • A child support or spousal support order from another case;
  • The number of non-joint children who will live in the home with either parent;
  • The amount a parent pays for health or dental insurance for the joint children only,
  • The amount a parent pays for daycare expenses for the joint children only.

The calculator will determine the child support obligation, and the percentage each parent should pay toward medical, dental, and child care expenses for the child(ren).

How is child support calculated when a parent is unemployed?

In Minnesota, the State assumes any person can work at least 40 hours a week for minimum wage. If a parent is unemployed, the court may calculate potential income by:

  1. Looking at his or her past earning history, job qualifications, and available jobs in the community, or;
  2. Using his or her unemployment earnings, or;
  3. Using the amount of income he or she would earn working 40 hours per week at 150 times the Federal or State minimum wage.

Rare exceptions apply, such as working as a caretaker for a child who has special needs or economic conditions which directly affect your employment status. You should meet with an attorney if you think an exception should apply to your situation.

Where do I send my support payments? Do I pay my ex directly?

All child support payments are paid through the Minnesota child support payment center at P.O. Box 64326, St. Paul, MN 55164-0326. The commissioner of human services will send both parents information regarding wage withholding when legal documents are filed in any case where child support is required.

Under certain circumstances the payment center will permit a parent to pay their child support payments directly to the other parent. If you don’t qualify for wage withholding, (i.e. self-employed and don’t receive paychecks), you should mail your payments to the payment center. If you pay your ex directly, it could be considered a gift, and not a child support payment.

Additional Minnesota Child Support Questions & Answers

There is a child support calculator available to you online. Before you start the calculator, you should have the information listed here.

  1. The parent who will have physical custody of the child(ren);
  2. The amount of visitation the non-custodial parent will exercise with the child(ren) (counted in overnights, in percentages, less than 10%, 10-45%, or at least 45.1%);
  3. Both parents’ gross monthly wages from all sources of income;
  4. If one parent is unemployed, what is that parent’s potential gross monthly wages (i.e. what did they earn prior to unemployment, or what are the wages from unemployment);
  5. A child support or spousal support order from another case;
  6. The number of non-joint children who will live in the home with either parent;
  7. The amount a parent pays for health or dental insurance for the joint children only, and;
  8. The amount a parent pays for daycare expenses for the joint children only.

The calculator will determine the child support obligation, and the percentage each parent should pay toward medical, dental, and child care expenses for the child(ren).

Income considered for child support purposes, includes:

Salaries, wages, commissions, self-employment income, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, annuity payments, military and naval retirement, pension and disability payments, spousal maintenance received under a previous order, social security or veterans’ benefits provided for a non-joint child, and potential income.

Gross income is the amount earned prior to making pre-tax deductions such as health insurance benefits or retirement accounts. Also, under specific circumstances, gross income may not include overtime wages or bonuses. You should speak with an attorney to make sure you have calculated your gross income correctly.

The State assumes any person can work at least 40 hours a week for minimum wage. If a parent is unemployed, the court may calculate potential income by either:

  1. Looking at his or her past earning history, job qualifications, and available jobs in the community, or;
  2. Use his or her unemployment earnings, or;
  3. Use the amount of income he or she would earn working 40 hours per week at 150 times the Federal or State minimum wage.

Rare exceptions apply such as, working as a caretaker for a child who has special needs, or economic conditions which directly affect your employment status. You should meet with an attorney if you think an exception should apply to your situation.

If you are self-employed it can be difficult to determine what your gross wages were for the year. You should be prepared to turn over your previous five years’ tax returns, including all the schedules and worksheets. Some of the income you deducted for income tax purposes, is not deductible for child support purposes.

If your income fluctuates each year, your gross income will be determined by averaging your income over either a three or five-year period.

A child support order terminates under various circumstances, including:

  1. When your child turns 18 or through the month in which your child graduates from high school;
  2. When your child turns 20, if they are still enrolled in high school and living with the other parent;
  3. When your child gets married;
  4. When your child becomes self-supporting;
  5. When your child joins the armed services;
  6. When your child is legally emancipated, or;
  7. By order of the court.

No. You need to file legal papers (a motion) with the court asking the court to modify your child support obligation.

All child support payments are paid through the Minnesota child support payment center at P.O. Box 64326, St. Paul, MN 55164-0326. The commissioner of human services will send both parents information regarding wage withholding when legal documents are filed in any case where child support is required.

Under certain circumstances the payment center will permit a parent to pay their child support payments directly to the other parent. If you don’t qualify for wage withholding, (i.e. self-employed and don’t receive paychecks), you should mail your payments to the payment center. If you pay your ex directly, it could be considered a gift, and not a child support payment.

You will need to give the child support payment center your mailing address, telephone number, and your employer’s name and contact information. You are required to update this information when it changes.

It is difficult to waive child support. A court might permit a waiver if the custodial parent significantly earns more income than the non-custodial parent, or if the parent’s income is similar and the child support payment is minimal.

You will need to meet with an attorney if you want to waive child support. The marital termination agreement or parenting plan requires special language. And it’s important to note, even if you qualify to waive child support, the Judge may not agree with the request.

No. The law requires that child support be calculated using the online calculator.

There are some exceptions built into the law though. If you are concerned about your ability to pay, you should meet with an attorney to determine if any of the exceptions apply in your situation.

Child support covers the basic costs to care for your child, which include things such as, shelter, food, clothes, school supplies, lunches, daycare or afterschool costs, and extra-curricular activities.

Maybe. There are some exceptions to the basic child support calculation, and extraordinarily high medical expenses is one of them. You should discuss this with your attorney.

Yes, you can request to modify your child support, under many circumstances. The most common reason to modify child support is when income has increased or decreased by at least 20%. It isn’t an easy task to modify your child support obligation. It is best to make sure it was calculated properly the first time around.

Yes. When a child support order is modified, it becomes effective the month you filed your case. This is because it can take several months to get in to court.   

You should start a contempt action against your ex.

To protect yourself from a costly contempt action, you should request “income withholding only services,” from your local child support office. You will complete and return an application for this service. The office will keep track of the payments she is making, and if she falls behind, they will initiate the contempt action for you. This is a free service to you, but will cost your ex $15 per month on top of the child support obligation.

If you don’t sign up for this service, you will need to take her to court. To start a contempt action, she must owe at least $500 and be 90 days behind. If you hire an attorney to collect past due child support (arrearages), you are entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees as part of the action. However, this is limited to 30% of the arrearages you are attempting to collect. To receive your attorney’s fees, you must receive a Judgment, and your attorney must file notice of your intention to receive attorney’s fees.

Be aware though if she pays the judgment in full within 20 days, she will not have to pay your attorney’s fees.