The Minnesota Department of Human Services provides the online Child Support Calculator. Issues on calculating child support arise in the following areas:
- The correct gross income of each party. 518A.29 discusses the calculation of gross income. Gross income is defined as “any form of periodic payment to an individual, including, but not limited to, salaries, wages, commissions, self-employment income under section 518A.30, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, annuity payments, military and naval retirement, pension and disability payments, spousal maintenance received under a previous order or the current proceeding, Social Security or veterans benefits provided for a joint child under section 518A.31, and potential income under section 518A.32. Salaries, wages, commissions, or other compensation paid by third parties shall be based upon gross income before participation in an employer-sponsored benefit plan that allows an employee to pay for a benefit or expense using pretax dollars, such as flexible spending plans and health savings accounts. No deductions shall be allowed for contributions to pensions, 401-K, IRA, or other retirement benefits.”
- Issues arise on calculating gross income when a party is unemployed or underemployed, as a Court may impute income to that party pursuant to 518A.32. Imputing income treats the unreasonably unemployed or underemployed parent as though he or she earns a fully employed income. Often, seasonal employees may see higher child support because a Court may determine that they are capable of year round employment.
- There is a rebuttable presumption that a parent is capable of gainful employment on a full-time basis. A parent will not be considered unreasonably underemployed or unemployed if one of the following situations applies:
- the unemployment, underemployment, or employment on a less than full-time basis is temporary and will ultimately lead to an increase in income;
- the unemployment, underemployment, or employment on a less than full-time basis represents a bona fide career change that outweighs the adverse effect of that parent’s diminished income on the child; OR
- the unemployment, underemployment, or employment on a less than full-time basis is because a parent is physically or mentally incapacitated or due to incarceration, except where the reason for incarceration is the parent’s nonpayment of support.
- Other factors may affect whether a parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed. A parent who stays at home to care for minor children that are the subject of the child support order may not have income imputed to them. A parent who stays at home to care for other children that are NOT subject to the child support order, however, may have income imputed to him or her.
- Parenting expense adjustment. The child support calculator takes into account the amount of time each parent spends with the child. When a child is with a parent, that parent is expected to provide food, shelter, and entertainment for the child. Therefore, the parent paying child support to the other is entitled to a deduction in support for the amount of time that parent spends caring for the child.
However, the legislature designed the parenting expense adjustment to prevent parents from fighting over one or two nights per month in order for a parent to have a lower child support obligation. Therefore, the parenting expense adjustment is divided into three categories only, depending on the amount of time the non-custodial parent has with the child: less than 10% of the time; between 10-45% of the time; or between 45.1% and 50%.
My child’s mother just received a promotion at work. She now earns significantly more money than when our child support order was issued. Will I be able to modify the child support order?
Most likely, yes. Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 518A.39, a substantial increase (or decrease) in income of either party may be grounds for a modification of a child support order if the change in income makes the current child support order unreasonable and unfair. It is presumed that a child support order is unreasonable and unfair IF the new child support calculation with current income information from both parents would result in a child support order that is at least 20% and at least $75 per month higher or lower than the current order.
My child’s father recently quit his job. He told me that he quit so that he doesn’t have to pay child support anymore. Can he do this?
A parent who is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed may face a harsh reality when it comes to child support. Many parents who either choose not to work or fail to seek employment appropriately may find themselves in a difficult position: Courts do not look kindly upon parents who purposefully fail to support their children. Evidence showing that a parent is not properly seeking employment or, in this situation, voluntarily ended employment to avoid a support obligation, can lead to a Court continuing a child support obligation regardless of whether the obligor (the parent obligated to pay support) is employed. This will result in child support arrears accruing, which can lead to significant repercussions for the obligor: his driver’s license may be suspended; his professional or occupational license may be suspended; a lien may be placed on his vehicle to secure payment; or his hunting or other recreational license may be suspended. Additionally, an obligor who is significantly behind in child support payments may be found in contempt of court for failure to pay.
In short, a parent who fails to pay court ordered child support faces significant repercussions. Children have a right to financial support, and the courts will enforce that right on behalf of children fervently.
Why is the County involved in my child support case?
The County in which your child support action is venued may be a party to your case. This occurs in two instances:
- The custodial parent is receiving some sort of public benefit on behalf of the child. This may be in the form of food subsidies (food stamps, WIC, etc), medical assistance, day care assistance, free and reduced school lunches, cash assistance, or other forms of public assistance. When the custodial parent receives public benefits on behalf of the child, the County seeks a contribution from the non-custodial parent for those benefits. Often, this is how a child support and/or paternity action is commenced: the child’s Mother files for a public benefit, and the County then seeks to adjudicate paternity to obtain child support for both the Mother and the County.
- The parent receiving child support has applied for the County to aid in collecting and enforcing the child support order. This is common, and is how a parent may receive his/her child support payments through direct deposit and automatic income withholding from the obligor’s paycheck.