Minnesota Child Support
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Minnesota has established county child support agencies in each individual county. These agencies help mothers, fathers and alleged fathers and guardians of children and will assist with both obtaining an order for child support and with collecting on a child support order.
How to Get Child Support in Minnesota
In Minnesota, anyone with a child under age 18 living in his/her home may apply for support if at least one parent lives elsewhere. It is even possible to apply for support even without a formal custody or parenting agreement in place as long as there is sufficient proof that the minor child lives in the household.
All applications for child support payments in Minnesota must be made to local child support agencies found throughout the state. A list of the support agencies for each county can be located on the website of the Minnesota Department of Human Services so those applying for support must choose the appropriate location for their claim.
When visiting the local child support agency, parents seeking support payments can obtain various levels of help from the agency. In some cases, the county support agency will help to prove paternity and to obtain a support order by petitioning the court. The county support office does not represent the person seeking support in these actions, although they can petition the court for support. Instead, they represent the child and the best interests of the child.
These agencies can also help with enforcement of an existing order, or can assist in collecting past due support, even after the child has turned 18.
Determining Child Support Amounts
The state of Minnesota has established uniform guidelines that apply statewide for determining the amount of support due. According to these uniform guidelines, support obligations are calculated by factoring in the general costs of supporting a child (basic support) as well as the costs of medical care and child-care.
When deciding how much money a child should get each month for basic support, the total combined income of both parents is considered, as is the number of kids. Courts look at total combined income because of a belief that the more money parents have, the more of it they should spend caring for their kids. The total combined income is called Parental Income for Determining Child Support (PICS) and is calculated by adding up all sources of income (wages, business income, etc.) and then subtracting for taxes and existing support payments to children or former spouses from prior marriages.
Once the PICS has been determined, Minnesota provides a table with different PICS amounts. This table is located in Minnesota Statutes, section 518A.35. For each PICS, there is a designated amount of basic support due depending on the number of children.
The amount that each parent must contribute to the basic support obligation is determined based on the percentage of the combined PICS he earns. If a parent contributes 60 percent of the money earned, for example, then he must contribute 60 percent of the basic support cost. Medical and child support costs are also factored in, with each parent responsible for an appropriate percentage of these expenses.
Finally, because it is assumed that a parent incurs costs when the child spends time living with him or her, the court will subtract from the amount due based on the time spent with the child.
Minnesota Child Support Enforcement
When a parent fails to pay his court-ordered child support, child support agencies will take enforcement steps. These may include reporting the delinquency to the credit bureau, instituting federal criminal prosecution, instituting contempt proceedings, withholding income, seizing tax refunds and suspending the driver's license of the non-paying parent.
Child support agencies generally take action only after first notifying the non-paying parent and allowing time to repay the delinquency or to establish a payment plan. Interest may be added to late payments and, when appropriate, the state child support agency will assist in the collection of interest.
Changing Support Levels
Modifications to child support orders occur automatically as a result of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) in many child support cases. Under Minnesota law, all IV-D child support and spousal maintenance orders have an increase built in every two years as a result of the cost of living. This COLA adjustment may, however, be waived by the court at the time the support order is granted.
Modifications of support orders may also be made upon request of either party. Initial requests for changes should be made to the county child support agency. The agency staff will review the request for change to determine if there was a significant change in circumstances such as a promotion, unemployment, disability or incarceration.
If the agency determines that there has been a change in circumstances sufficient to warrant a change in support, they will file a motion asking the court to make a change. If the agency determines that the requirements for a change are not met, they will notify the requestor who can then file a motion with the court directly asking for a hearing.
Again, when a request for change is made, the support agencies do not provide legal representation to the parent. They represent only the child's best interests. Parents may wish to seek advice from a child support lawyer in order to protect their own legal rights.