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Will Minnesota’s New Child Support Laws Affect Me?

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Minnesota’s child support laws are changing. Starting August 1, 2018, child support calculations will undergo a makeover. Currently, an “income shares” model is used to calculate child support. That means the income of each parent is combined to create a total parental income. The sum of those incomes is used to determine the proper child support payment. Each parent is obligated to pay a child support amount equivalent to his or her percentage of the combined parental income. The goal of this model is to ensure the children remain in essentially the same financial situation as they were in prior to their parent’s divorce. For example, if the parents earn a combined $8,000 a month, with the mother earning 60% of the income and the father earning the remaining 40%, the mother is responsible for $4,800 a month and the father is responsible for $3,200 a month.

There is, however, a parental expense adjustment that is taken into account. This slightly complicates the equation. The adjustment factors in the amount of time each parent has custody of the children. The current law considers parenting time in the following categories: (1) less than 10%, (2) 10-45%, or (3) 45.1-50%. These percentages take into account overnight time, which creates problems as the gaps are so large. The consideration of overnight time could bump a parent into a higher category, increasing their child support obligation.

For example, a parent could be in the 10-45% category but only have the children every other weekend. In contrast, a parent could have the children nearly half of the time and be in the same category. Therefore, in each instance the parent will contribute the same amount even though their parenting times differ drastically. Consider the above scenario where the mother earns $4,800 a month and the father earns $3,200 a month. Imagine they are the parents of two minor children. Assume the mother is in the 10-45% category and has the children 45% of the time. If that is the case, the mother will pay the father hundreds more dollars than she would have had she been in the 45.1-50% category.

The Minnesota legislature set out to remedy this issue during the 2018 legislative session. Although the “income shares” model will remain the foundational method for calculating child support payments, the rigid time adjustment categories have been abolished. Instead of the sharp cut-offs, a more complicated calculation formula will be used. The formula will result in a gradual increase or decrease in required support payments depending on parenting time. The goal is to ensure the fairness and consistency of child support orders. The old law encouraged bickering over extra days with the children simply to reduce the amount of support owed.

Another aspect of the new law is the presumption it creates if a parent spends 55% or more of the time with the children. If a parent reaches this threshold, the parent’s support obligation will typically be set at $0. This is a stark change from the old law, where parents who had a great majority of the parenting time may still have been required to pay support.

Although some of the law’s nuances need to be worked through, it is important you are aware of the changes that will be taking place over the coming months. Importantly, an amendment to the law does not have the effect of creating a substantial change in circumstances for the purposes of modifying an existing support order. This means you must have another basis, other than changes in the law, for bringing a motion to modify a support order.

At Rinke Noonan, we have experienced family law attorneys who handle a vast array of family issues. We understand this information may seem daunting. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding any family law issue, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to assist you.

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