Child Support & Maintenance

Child Support & MaintenanceChild Support in Minnesota

In Minnesota, child support is based upon a mathematical  formula which takes into account the gross monthly incomes of both  parents. Although the calculation itself is very simple, issues such as  determining whether someone is voluntarily un-employed or under-employed  and what their “potential” income is, or determining the income of a  self-employed parent, can present special challenges to the court.  Additionally, there may be circumstances where a “deviation” from the  child support guidelines is appropriate and should be ordered by the  court. Under Minnesota law, “child support” is actually made up of the  following three components:


Basic child support is what most people think of when they think of  child support. It is a monthly dollar amount of support paid by one  parent to the other. The exact dollar amount is arrived at by including  the income of both parents into a child support “guideline calculator”  maintained online by the State of Minnesota, Department of Human  Services.


Childcare support involves apportioning responsibility between the  parents for childcare expenses that are incurred by either parent, so  long as they are work or education related. The child support calculator  does not apportion the monthly childcare cost strictly in proportion to  income, as the calculator takes into account the tax benefits to the  party actually paying the childcare expense.


Healthcare support involves apportioning responsibility between the  parents for the children’s healthcare insurance premiums, as well as  co-pays, deductibles and any uncovered healthcare expenses, including  expenses for medical, dental and orthodontic, vision and mental  healthcare treatment. Healthcare insurance is most frequently set by  requiring that the parent with the best insurance plan maintain the  coverage, and by then apportioning the cost of the monthly premium and  any uncovered healthcare expenses, in proportion to the parties’  respective incomes, on a percentage basis.


Minnesota employs the use of a “Child Support Calculator” which  applies child support guidelines enacted by the legislature. The amount  of support specified by the “calculator” is most often set by the court.  However, where circumstances warrant, a judge or child support  magistrate may make either an upward or downward deviation from the  “guidelines”. The court is required to consider: (a) the gross monthly  income (or potential gross monthly income) of each parent; (b) the  number of joint minor children; (c) the amount of parenting time  exercised by each parent; (d) the cost for a child’s healthcare  insurance premiums; (e) the cost of any work-related or  education-related childcare; (f) the tax consequences of paying the  childcare expenses; and (g) whether either parent is legally obligated  to support and is providing support for any non-joint minor children.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services maintains the Child Support Calculator on their web site at


For salaried or hourly workers, monthly income is determined by  either dividing the annual salary by twelve months, or multiplying an  hourly worker’s rate of pay time 40 hours multiplied by the average of  4.33 week in a month. Usually overtime income is not considered unless  it is mandatory or unless the parent has consistently worked overtime  hours at the time the action is commenced. Parents that are unemployed,  self-employed or underemployed present special challenges to the court,  which has a tremendous amount of discretion. The court has the ability  to “impute” or estimate income as circumstances warrant. A parent’s  educational background and the current job opportunities available in  the economy are relevant considerations.


Under Minnesota law, a parent’s obligation to pay child support  continues until the child attains 18 years of age AND graduates from  high school (but not past age 20 if still in high school), or until the  child marries, joins the armed services or if there has been a total  “relinquishment of parental control”.  There are also circumstances  where it’s possible for child support to be ordered beyond age 20, for  example, when children have special needs or challenges, however  Minnesota is among a minority of states where there is no legal  obligation for a parent to contribute towards college or post-secondary  educational expenses.



Buying gifts – either for the other parent or the child, or giving  food, or clothing for the children technically do not count as “child  support”. Each county has a child support enforcement unit which will  assist in the establishment and enforcement of child support or spousal  maintenance (alimony) orders at low or minimal cost. Either party can  apply for these services at through the office of their local county  attorney’s office.


Failure to pay child support is not a valid reason to limit parenting  time, just as the failure to be allowed to see or be with a child is  not a valid reason to withhold child support payments


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