Minnesota child support: how much do i have to pay?

Posted in Divorce.

If you find yourself in a position where you will be either paying child support or receiving child support, this article will provide the basics of 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. Well, the new child support laws really are not all that new. They came into effect in January 2007. So, we are actually four and half years into the “new child support laws.”

Briefly, the old child support laws, which were in effect from the early 1980s until 2007, basically provided for the child support obligor (the parent paying child-support), to pay child support based on a percentage of that parent’s net income. Thus, the individual would 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 state and federal taxes were deducted, in addition to the cost of health insurance, a reasonable pension amount and union dues.

As of January 2007, the State of Minnesota has been operating under the “new child support laws.” Child support is now based on both parties’ incomes and is based on gross income as opposed to net income. The amount of child support to be paid is computed by adding both parties’ gross incomes together to come up with a “combined parental income for determining child support.” This parental income is then divided between the parents based on their proportionate share of the parents’ combined income. In the Minnesota family law community we frequently refer to this 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 and can be currently found in 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. There is a presumption in the law that a parent has parenting time at least 10% of the time. The next parenting time adjustment is at 45% of the time (i.e. a parent must have parenting time with the children at least 45% of the time to get a substantial child-support reduction). This parenting time adjustment at 45% of the time, seems to be the proverbial “battleground” in Court. What I mean by this, is 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 it can make a difference of several hundred dollars and even over a thousand dollars every month in child support.

In my family law practice, I will often compromise with the other parent when we are in the area of parenting time between 40% and 45% of the time. In these cases, I may suggest that we “deviate” from the child support guidelines, so that there is not such a drastic impact if the one parent does not quite have parenting time in excess of 45% of the time. In such cases, it is important, and necessary to fully explain to the Court why we are deviating from the child support guidelines and why such a deviation is in the children’s best interests.

The current Minnesota child support laws also include provisions for the allocation to the parents of medical insurance premiums for the children 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 allocated based on each parents respective PICS income (as explained above). 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 child support obligor will pay something less than what his or her PICS income otherwise is, to account for the benefits of the daycare credit that the child support obligee (the parent receiving child support) may otherwise 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 compute if both parents are W-2 employees and work 40 hour weeks. Child support computations can become more complex when one or both of the parents are self-employed or if one or both of the parents are unemployed or underemployed. It is worth noting, that the Minnesota child support laws provide a presumption that each parent is capable of working

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