Cortney E. Whitehouse, Esquire, Bloch & Whitehouse, P.A., 8120 Penn Avenue South, Bloomington, Minnesota 55431, (952) 224-9977, http://www.mndivorcefamilylaw.com.
Child support is an issue of great concern to separating or divorcing Minnesota parents, whether they expect to pay or receive it. It is helpful to understand the basics of Minnesota child support: how it’s calculated, what the calculations take into account, and why it’s done that way.
In Minnesota, child support encompasses three different types of support. “Basic Support” refers to payments made to cover the costs of the child’s essential living expenses. These include food, clothing, shelter and other basic costs. “Medical Support” refers to payments for health and dental insurance, including payments toward the costs of health and dental insurance provided by the other parent. Medical support also encompasses payments for uninsured or unreimbursed medical and dental expenses. “Child care support” covers the expenses of child care or day care when the parents are working or attending school.
Minnesota Child Support Guidelines 101
Child support in Minnesota is typically determined by the official Child Support Guidelines established by the state legislature. The Guidelines operate according to an “Income Shares” model. This model takes into account the gross income of each parent, the number of children, the approximate cost of raising a child at various income levels, and the amount of parenting time parents have with the child or children at issue. Basic support is divided between the parents based on their proportionate share of combined monthly parental income available for child support, also known as “PICS.” The Guidelines for basic support are found in Minnesota Statutes 518A.35.
What does gross income include? It includes income from regular employment, unemployment compensation and Social Security benefits. Military pensions are also included in gross income. If one parent receives spousal support from the other, that payment is included in the gross income of the parent who receives it, but deducted from the gross income of the payor. Public assistance or child support received for other children does not come under the heading of “gross income.” The court will take into account either parent’s obligations for non-joint children, however.
In practice, the allocation of support would work like this: If a couple has PICS of $4,000, with one parent earning $3,000 and the other earning $1,000, the first parent would be responsible for 75% and second parent would be responsible for 25% of the statutory amount of basic child support based on the combined income level.
The amount of parenting time ordered by the court, formerly known as visitation, figures into this calculation. If one parent has the children between 10 and 45 percent of the time, he or she is entitled to a reduction in child support of approximately 12 percent. A parent with less than 10 percent parenting time receives no reduction in child support payment. A parent with parenting time 45.1% or more of the times receives a significant reduction in his or her child support obligation.
Other Important Minnesota Child Support Facts
The support amount set forth by the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines is a rebuttable presumption. That is, it is presumed to be the correct amount of support, but the parties may present the court with evidence why that amount should be deviated from, either upward or downward. Reasons for deviation are referred to in Minnesota Statutes 518A.43.
If the parties’ combined monthly gross income exceeds $15,000, the court will typically consider the income to be $15,000 for the purposes of calculating support, unless there is determined to be a reason to deviate from this amount.
Also, Minnesota law presumes that each parent is capable of earning an income. Even if one parent is not working, the court may take potential income into account when determining a child support amount. If a parent fails or refuses to provide income information to help the court calculate support, the court is permitted by law to consider other available evidence of that parent’s income, such as work history or the testimony of witnesses. Alternately, the court may attribute an amount of income to the parent, including full-time employment at 150% of state or federal minimum wage.
The Minnesota Child Support Guidelines are a complex system, which have only been briefly touched upon in this article. Whether an initial child support amount is being established, or a party is seeking a modification of child support, the inquiry is very fact-specific. To learn how the law applies to the facts of your particular case, we invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation. We look forward to working with you.