HOW IS CHILD SUPPORT DETERMINED?
Effective January 1, 2007, the Minnesota Legislature enacted major changes to the way child support is determined. Instead of only considering the “net income” of the non-custodial parent (often referred to as the “obligor”), judges, family court referees and child support magistrates are now required to determine the “gross income” of both parents (called Parental Income for Child Support or “PICS”), and apply a new “income shares” model or formula for determining the proper amount of support.
Under the new law, the amount of “child support” to be ordered actually consists of three
components which include Basic Child Support, a Health Insurance & Uncovered Expense
Contribution, and a Child Care Expense Contribution (in cases where there are work-related
or education-related child care expenses being incurred for the parties’ children).
The contributions towards medical insurance, uncovered health care expenses and child
care expenses are now pro-rated based upon each parents’ respective percentage of gross income
or PICS. The court usually requires the parent with the better health insurance coverage to
maintain that coverage, and to share in uncovered expenses in relation to their respective
percentage of gross income. Under a somewhat complex formula the new law also takes into
consideration adjustments for the amount of parenting time each parent has (provided it is
court-ordered), a credit for non-joint children that either parent is legally responsible
to support, and the tax consequences for the parent who is actually paying childcare
expenses. The court also has the authority to apportion the right to claim the child or children
as dependents for income tax purposes.
The new law also required that the State of Minnesota, Department of Human Services maintain
a Child Support Calculator on their web site. This calculator applies the new formula and
computes each parent’s respective obligations for Basic Child Support, Health Insurance &
Uncovered Expense Contributions, and Child Care Expense Contributions. In order to use the
Child Support Calculator, you will need to have the following information:
- Each parent’s gross monthly income;
- The number of children living in each parent’s home;
- The amount of any other child support or spousal maintenance; orders
- The amount of any Social Security or Veterans benefits being; received
- The cost for both medical and dental insurance coverage;
- The cost of any work-related or education-related child care; and
- The percentage of court-ordered parenting time for each parent.
The new Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator can be accessed at
Although it is very common for many support obligations to be established or
modified through the so-called “Expedited Process”, with the assitance
of a Child Support Magistrate, it is just as important at these hearings, for
parents to have the benefit of competent legal representation. Although the hearings
may seem informal and are conducted with the help of county employees (usually
through the County Attorney’s Child Support Collections Office), the county employees
are usually not attorneys. They may or may not take all relevant factors into
consideration. Also, the county is always represented by an attorney who knows
the law, while the parents may or may not be. Persons being obligated to pay support
may be at an extreme disadvantage in these proceedings because they do not know the
law, and no one is looking out for their interests. Parents who are to receive or pay
child support should consult with an experienced attorney ensure that their rights
are fully protected. If a county employee is telling you, “… you don’t need
an attorney”, then you may want to ask them why the County ALWAYS has their
attorney present on its behalf at these hearings. Many family law attorneys charge
only a small fee for an initial half-hour consultation. If you wait until after an
order is entered by the court, it will likely be much more difficult, and sometimes
impossible, for you or your attorney to change the order at a later date.