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How to Calculate Your Child Support Obligation in Minnesota
(provided by Eric C. Nelson, Esq.)

I. Introduction.

The law in Minnesota is premised on the idea that a child has the right to benefit from the income of both parent's custodial and non-custodial. Thus the system focuses more on the income of the non-custodial parent than on the actual need of the child. Even if the custodial parent is a billionaire, the non-custodial parent is required to pay child support under Minnesota law. To this end, Minnesota has adopted child support guidelines based on the non-custodial parent's net income. Although many factors can be considered by the Court in determining the correct amount of child support, in the vast majority of cases, child support is ordered in an amount dictated by the child support guidelines.

II. Calculating Support under the Guidelines.

The Child Support Guidelines are based on two factors: the number of children, and the non- custodial parent's net income. Net income for purposes of child support is defined as total income minus the following deductions:

Once a figure for net monthly income has been determined, the following table is used to determine what percentage of that net monthly income must be paid in child support:

Net Monthly Income
1 Child
2
3
4
5
6
7+
$0-550
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
$551-600
16%
19%
22%
25%
28%
30%
32%
$601-650
17%
21%
24%
27%
29%
32%
34%
$651-700
18%
22%
25%
28%
31%
34%
36%
$701-750
19%
23%
27%
30%
33%
36%
38%
$751-800
20%
24%
28%
31%
35%
38%
40%
$801-850
21%
25%
29%
33%
36%
40%
42%
$851-900
22%
27%
31%
34%
38%
41%
44%
$901-950
23%
28%
32%
36%
40%
43%
46%
$951-1000
24%
29%
34%
38%
41%
45%
48%
$1,001-6,975
25%
30%
35%
39%
43%
47%
50%

(*) Stands for Judge's discretion.

The cap is set every two years. $6,975 is the amount in effect from 7/1/04 through 6/30/06. For net monthly incomes higher than the cap, the cap is used instead, such that the maximum guideline amount of child support is never higher than the appropriate percentage of the cap, regardless of the obligor's income.

III. Child Care Contribution.

In addition to child support, a non-custodial parent can be required to contribute to the child care costs of the minor children that are necessary while the custodial parent is at school or work. The amount is based on the parties' respective net incomes after child support and spousal maintenance have been transferred. The child care costs are adjusted to 75% of actual costs to account for tax benefits to the custodial parent.

Example:

The custodial parent (father) has net income for child support purposes of $1,000 per month. The non-custodial parent (mother) has net income for child support purposes of $3,000 per month. There are two (2) kids, so the mother's child support obligation is 30% of $3,000, or $900 per month. In addition, the mother pays spousal maintenance to the father in the amount of $400 per month. Therefore, after the mother has paid child support and spousal maintenance to the father, the mother has adjusted net income of $1,600 per month, and the father has adjusted net income of $2,400 per month. The parties have combined net income of $4,000 per month. Thus, the father's percentage of the parties' combined net income is 60%; the mother's is 40%. Day care costs come to $400 per month. Adjusted day care cost is therefore $300 per month ($400 x 75%). The mother's child care obligation, which is in addition to child support, comes to $120 per month (40% of $300).

IV. Medical and Dental Coverage.

Pursuant to Minnesota Statute section 518.171, Subdivision 1(d), the general rule is that the parties must each assume a portion of the minor children's medical and dental expenses, including medical and dental insurance, in proportion to their respective net incomes.

V. Child Support in Joint Physical Custody Cases.

The Child Support Guidelines also apply in joint physical custody cases. Essentially, when parties share joint physical custody, each is considered to be paying the other for the percentage of time that the other party has custody. Here is an example of how Guideline child support would be calculated in a joint physical custody case, where Wife nets $3,000 per month and has the children 40% of the time, and Husband nets $1,400 per month and has the children 60% of the time:

 

Wife

Husband

Total net monthly income:

$3,000

$1,400

Guideline percentage required for 2 children:

30%

30%

Guideline amount of child support:

$900

$420

Percent of time parent has custody:

40%

60%

Guideline amount reduced by percentage of custody:

$540

$168

Wife’s obligation offset by Husband’s obligation:

–$168

 

Wife’s monthly Guideline child support obligation with Joint Physical Custody:

$372

 



This is the so-called Hortis-Valento or Cross-support formula. In this same situation, if Husband had sole physical custody rather than joint, then Wife's child support obligation would be $900 per month under the Guidelines, rather than $372. This remains true even if they were to keep the same parenting time schedule. It is the label which controls.

VI. Deviation from the Guidelines.

Q) What if you can't afford to pay the Guideline amount and meet your living expenses?

A) Nobody cares.

I'm being only a little bit facetious. You have the right to seek a downward deviation from the child support Guidelines, just as your spouse has the right to seek an upward deviation. But in practice, Courts in general only rarely deviate from the Guidelines. The Guidelines are presumed to dictate the correct amount of support, and a deviation requires the Court to make special findings to overcome this presumption. (i.e., extra work).

To make such a case, be prepared to carefully and painstakingly document all of your expenses and income. Even then, the attitude from the bench is typically: "too bad; learn to live more frugally." If that means selling your home and moving into a room at the YMCA, so be it. As one decision put it:

"the obligation of a [parent] to support his progeny must take precedence over every consideration for himself not arising from the absolute necessities of self-sustenance."

The only unfair dynamic of this pronouncement is that the Guidelines currently do not take into account the custodial parent's income, so the non-custodial payor may be living at a subsistence level in order to pay child support to a custodial parent who doesn't need the money. This system may change soon as a result of ongoing legislative action.

Information provided by:
Eric C. Nelson, Esq. located at
http://www.divorcesource.com/MN/DS/nelson.html

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