The Basics Of Minnesota Child Support

Most people are familiar with the term "child support." They understand that it is a financial payment made to ensure that a child's basic needs are met, including shelter, clothing, food, etc. What is not clear to most is how Minnesota's family courts arrive at the amount that is appropriate for any given family.

Getting Started

Though many couples make child support requests part of a divorce decree, parents do not need to have been married in order for child support to be awarded. Either parent can seek child support, but the court will carefully weigh the amount of time each parent spends with the child before an application will be approved. If, for example, Mary's mother only sees her daughter for supervised four- to five-hour visits every other weekend, it is unlikely that, were the mother to request child support, it would be appropriate in that situation. In fact, it might be that Mary's father would be awarded child support should he seek it.

Next Steps

Once a request has been made, the court's "real" work begins. Though judges do have wide discretion in deciding child support disputes, the Minnesota legislature has provided assistance through the state's domestic and family relations laws. Of particular importance is Section 518.17 of the Minnesota Statutes. This section sets forth what is known as the "best interests of the child" standard, which guides judges when making decisions that will affect the children, including custody and child support.

The law provides factors that judges must consider, including:

  • The wishes of the child (provided he or she is of sufficient age and maturity to express an opinion) and the parents
  • Age and health of child and parents
  • Custody and parenting time arrangements (if they have already been established)
  • Relationship each parent has with the child
  • Family situation, including siblings and living arrangements
  • Child's home, school and medical needs
  • Cultural, ethnic or religious considerations
  • Any domestic abuse or violence that the child would be (or has been in the past) exposed to
  • Other factors the court deems necessary to make a valid decision

Using The Guidelines

After the court decides that support is appropriate, then comes the issue of setting the amount of support that will be paid. Again, the state legislature has clarified the process. This time, though, the law actually sets forth a guideline for how child support payments are set, in § 518A.35, Subdivision D of the Minnesota Statutes.

This section provides a table used to determine, based on the net income resources of each party, the child support obligation. Net income adjustments are available to account for such inconsistencies as overtime income, resources of both parents, any extraordinary expenses (medical debt because of long-term illness, special needs of the children), debts of each parent and other court-ordered child support, but the guidelines provide a framework for basic support calculations.

Seeking Help

Do you need help navigating the Minnesota child support system? Would you like more information about seeking child support or fighting against a request you feel is unfair? To get answers to these questions and other family-related legal issues, seek the advice of an experienced Minnesota family law attorney and contact us today.