In Minnesota, child support is determined pursuant to certain guidelines. The income of each parent is taken into account, along with parenting time schedules, cost for daycare and cost for medical and dental insurance. While the support guidelines are not necessarily binding, the vast majority of judges embrace them.

These days, the nuclear family sometimes feels like little more than a myth that we occasionally witness on reruns of classic TV sitcoms. United States Census data indicates that, while 40 percent of 1970 families consisted of two married parents living with children, this arrangement comprised just 19 percent of homes as of 2013. These changes impact not only multi-person households, but also the increasing number of single-person households, several of which involve divorced or otherwise estranged parents. Economic concerns can be considerable for all parents involved; those charged with paying child support may struggle to cover these obligations, especially if their kids reside with different parents. Below, we offer valuable advice for handling steep child support bills:

Reassess Your Budget

If you currently lack physical custody, you may have the capacity to downsize your lifestyle. This is probably not an option for your exes, who still need ample space and resources to raise your children. Take a close look at your budget and determine whether you can realistically cut back for the good of your children. For example, it may be possible to move into a smaller apartment.

Negotiate With Your Ex

Is your ex in a position to handle a greater share of childcare expenses? Are there any trade-offs you could make to secure a lower monthly payment? Be willing to compromise. If you’ve upheld your parental responsibilities since filing for divorce, one or both exes may grant you some leeway as you seek a workable financial solution.


Seek Court-Based Modification When Absolutely Necessary

Depending on your financial situation, you may be eligible for a court-based modification of child support. There are no guarantees, of course, but unexpected situations such as job loss or severe medical issues could at least temporarily reduce your financial burden.

Does your child support situation feel hopelessly complex? Consider weathering the storm with help from the Brown Law Offices. We can help you arrive at a support solution that is ideal for both you and your children.

Your adult daughter is getting a divorce. Guess who’s likely to be spending more time with the grandchildren? The assumption may be intrusive, but it’s also natural; after all, in a time of crisis like this, to whom else can your daughter turn, especially when childcare becomes an instant need? More importantly, how can you provide needed support for your daughter during her Minnesota divorce, as well as support for your grandchildren, without upending your own life? The following grandparent’s guide provides some helpful, common-sense tips.

Exercise active support and patience in the short-term

The days immediately following your daughter’s split from her spouse are likely to be filled with turmoil—not just the emotional fallout with her and with the grandkids, but also with the stresses of becoming a newly single parent and all that entails. Now is the time to provide as much support as you can until the family can regain its footing. You may be called upon to babysit more frequently while your daughter juggles a job and the many details surrounding a divorce. There may be no need to offer words of advice at this time; the best support you can offer is to be present and available.

Maintain a consistent front with your daughter for the grandchildren

As you spend more time with your grandchildren, you can expect them to ask some questions as they continue to process the reality of divorce. Confer with your daughter to learn how she has broken the news to the children so your answers can be neutrally supportive, consistent with what their mother has told them. If you are unsure how to answer, defer to their mother. You may have strong feelings about the ex, but now is not the time to share that information with the children.

Acknowledge that the arrangement is temporary

While offering extra support in the short-term, you are within your rights to emphasize that this additional help is temporary until she finds her feet. As an adult, your daughter needs to figure out how to move forward as a single parent, including setting up a more permanent solution for childcare. Don’t be afraid to say no to babysitting requests if you need a break or have other plans, and don’t be pressured to set aside any long-term plans for your “golden years.” You aren’t being selfish by drawing healthy boundaries—in fact, you are empowering your daughter to regain her self-sufficiency for the long run.

Child in Need of Protective Services (CHIPS) deals with the health, safety, and welfare of children in Minnesota. There are a variety of reasons why a parent may be involved in a CHIPS case. Here’s what you need to know.

1.    Who can file a CHIPS petition? Anyone. In Minnesota, if you find yourself accused of child abuse or neglect, you’ll have to defend yourself. Your best bet is to hire an attorney.

2.    Will the state remove my child from my home? If a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigator deems your child is in danger, your child could be removed for up to 72 hours. That time does not include weekends and holidays.

3.    Where will my child go if removed? The court’s first choice is with a relative. If CPS removes your child, give them the name and contact information for your nearest relative.

4.    What happens if my child is placed in foster care? You have the right to be notified of this fact.

5.    What happens after my child is removed? You’ll be notified of an Emergency Placement Hearing within 72 hours of your child’s removal from your home. You should be at that hearing with your attorney.

6.    Will my child be permanently removed? The court will consider less restrictive measures, but they do err on the side of caution and heavily consider the nature of the petition.

7.    Is there a presumption of innocence? You will be asked to admit or deny allegations against you. Consult with an attorney before your hearing. If you admit to any type of neglect or abuse of your child, there could be serious consequences.

The state of Minnesota takes CHIPS allegations seriously. Your best defense is to hire an attorney; don’t answer allegations until you have proper representation.

Get your CHIPS case law questions answered today. Call 763-323-6555 to talk to a qualified Minnesota family law attorney.

Adopting a child with special needs in Minnesota is like adopting any other child, with a few differences. Five things you should know about special needs adoption include:

1. “Special needs” can refer to a variety of issues – Special needs children waiting for adoption may have mental, emotional, physical, or behavioral disabilities. MN Adopt considers sibling groups in the “special needs” category, as well. Before adopting, consider the nature of these and determine whether you have the parental skills and the financial and logistical abilities to accommodate those needs.

2. Diverse factors cause challenges with child development – Special needs children may have been neglected or abused; or exposed to chemicals or drugs in prenatal development. They may have a genetic disorder. If abused, their abuse may have been emotional, sexual, psychological, or physical, or a combination of the above. Identifying the root cause of the challenges can help you and your family adapt and nurture the child effectively.

3. You may qualify for expense reimbursement from the government – In some cases, a family adopting a special needs child may be eligible to receive reimbursement for certain non-recurring expenses.

4. Waiting lists tend to be shorter – Many adopting parents don’t feel they are equipped to handle special needs. As a result, the waiting list is generally shorter for special needs children.

5. Support groups abound to help you and your family – These groups welcome adoptive parents and provide resources to help families with special needs. To find one, Google [your child’s special need] + “support group” + [your local town]  (example: “autism support group in Minneapolis”).

Are you and your family excited to open your hearts to a little boy or girl who could benefit from your love and care? Consult a family law attorney with the Brown Law Offices at 763-323-6555 for a private case consultation.

When a parent fails to make good on child support payments, the negative effects impact not only the children and the other parent but also the entire dynamic of the post-divorce relationship. In some cases, the delinquent parent simply cannot afford to pay. In other cases, the parent deliberately refuses out of a belief that the arrangement isn’t fair. Finally, the parent may be a victim of bad luck. For instance, he loses his job or gets demoted when his company eliminates his position, and he no longer can make child support payments without an income stream. However, his obligation to pay won’t necessarily stop, and the child support debt can continue to mount.

When delinquency becomes chronic, consequences ensue.

An Unfair Burden on the Poorest Parents?

Not surprisingly, the lowest paid earners bear the heaviest child support burden and owe the most in back payments.

Republicans and Democrats alike agree that the federal system needs an overhaul and that payments should stop for those in prison across the nation. While conservatives in general want checks in place to prevent parents from taking advantage of this system, liberals in general prefer broader parameters, so that disadvantaged parents can climb out of what can become the bottomless pit of child support.

Stopping Child Support During Incarceration

If you are arrested and owe child support, your county child support worker might be able to assist you. Minnesota laws state that you can request child support to be reduced or stopped while you are in custody. However, the courts do not automatically stop child support. Instead, you will need to take the following steps:

1.    Submit a letter to the child support office, asking for a review of your case. Include your reason for the letter.
2.    Personnel at the agency will decide whether your case meets the criteria for modifications. They will notify the parent with an approval or a denial.
3.    If the request is denied, the parent can submit a motion directly to the court, asking for a modification of the order.

After you are released from custody, the court will again review your financial situation and establish a new order. It will consider your employment status in addition to your efforts to obtain employment.

If you’re a parent owed child support from a delinquent ex, you also have rights and options to seek fair compensation, so you can provide for yourself and your children.

Of the issues involved in a divorce in Minnesota, child support is generally recognized as the simplest to resolve. That does not mean, however, that the determination of basic support, medical support and daycare support is necessarily easy in every case.

Here are some of the more common questions our child support lawyers are asked concerning child support in Minnesota:

Who Must Pay Child Support?

Parents of minor children have a duty to provide for their financial support. Marital status does not matter. In other words, the same standards apply in a paternity case (involving unmarried individuals) and a traditional marital dissolution action.

Who Is A Child?

Pursuant to the Minnesota child support statutes, a child is defined as an individual under 18 years of age, or 20 years of age who is either: (1) still in high school; or (2) incapable of self support because of physical or mental impairment.

Can I Be Ordered To Pay Support For An Adult Child?

If a child has emancipated, or reaches the age of majority (18) , the Court loses jurisdiction over the issue of child support – again, unless one of the exceptions noted above is triggered.

What Is Basic Child Support?

Basic child support is the more traditional form of child support – a cash payment made from one parent to the other for the needs of the minor child (such as food, housing, clothing, education, and transportation).

What Is Medical Support?

Under Minnesota law, parents are obligated to divide, in proportion to their income, the cost for medical and dental insurance premiums for a child. They are also required to divide uninsured medical and dental expenses in proportion to their income (known as the PICS).

What Is Childcare Support?

Pursuant to Minnesota’s child support statutes, parents will be ordered to divide, pursuant to the PICS, the work-related childcare costs associated with minor children.

Can Parents Waive Child Support?

Because the Court considers child support to be “the child’s money,” it will not permit an outright waiver of child support. Instead, a “reservation” of support may take place. A reservation simply allows the parties to have no order on the issue in the moment, but return to Court later to address it, if they choose to do so.

The question most commonly asked of our divorce (and sometimes custody and paternity) clients involves how much support (either alimony or child support) they may receive, or pay, as part of their case.

The the answer to that inquiry can be rather complex, but the starting point in either situation involves a determination of “income” for each side.

Often overlooked by the litigants, “income” includes more than straight wages; it also involves unearned income, retained earnings, self-employment income, gifts, imputed income, housing benefits, per diem payments, and perks received as the owner of a business, or highly compensated individual.

For individuals who are W-2 employees, the determination of income is relatively straightforward. More digging occurs, however, when an individual is self-employed.

We often think of litigants as landing in one of four broad categories of earners: (1) W-2 employees; (2) self-employed individuals who run a “legitimate” business; (3) self-employed individuals who run a business haphazardly – often working for cash under the table; and (4) individuals who are not earning any income at all.

For the W-2 employee, a simple review of payroll records usually answers all questions.

A “legit” business owner typically employs an accountant, manages cashflow accurately, and files taxes on time. An interview the accountant and review of the relevant profit and loss statements and tax returns will typically result in a solid income figure.

Individuals who are unemployed will have income “imputed” to them at 150% of the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is larger.

The most difficulty arises in trying to determine the income of a business owner who is hiding money – either from their spouse, or the IRS. We often rely on a “lifestyle” argument in that situation, by presenting the Court with the basic facts about how large his/her home is (we’ve argued with “broke” parents who live in a $900,000 home), and what kind of car they drive, clothes they wear and vacations they take.

In general, the relevant statutes define income as “any periodic payment to an individual.” These types of payment can include:

  • Wages;
  • Tips;
  • Commissions;
  • Bonuses;
  • Workers’ Compensation Benefits;
  • Unemployment Benefits;
  • Annuity Payments;
  • Pension Payments;
  • Spousal Maintenance from a Prior Order;
  • Child Support from a Prior Order;
  • Social Security Benefits; or
  • Veteran’s Benefits.

Our clients also regularly ask about overtime pay. The law generally disfavors the inclusion of overtime pay (or other moonlighting earnings), unless overtime is required for employment, and was regularly worked during the relationship of the parties.

We’re often asked about how long child support payments must be made. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. Sec. 518A.39, Subdvision 5, a “child support obligation in a specific amount per child terminates automatically and without any action by the obligor to reduce, modify, or terminate the order upon the emancipation of the child.”

The answer, accordingly, is “until a child emancipates.” But what, exactly, is “emancipation?”

The emancipation of a child occurs in a number of ways.

The most typical form of emancipation involves a child graduating from high school, or reaching 18 years of age, whichever is later. In other words, if your high school graduate doesn’t turn 18 until August of the year they graduate, support payments will continue beyond high school for a few months. Well over 99% of the child support cases involve this type of standard.

There are situations in which a child qualifies for support until age 20 – usually when a minor has a disability of some sort. Support payments, however, need not continue beyond age 20, regardless of the circumstances.

Further, a minor can emancipate by agreement of the parties. If the facts and circumstances justify, the Court may approve an agreement to terminate child support prior to age 18, or high school graduation. The critical issue in such a situation involves whether parents have relinquished control and authority over a child’s upbringing. You should know that it is extremely rare for a judge to terminate support payments – even if agreement on this issue has been reached.

Emancipation may also take place if a child moves from a parent’s residence, and assumes responsibility for themselves. The child, in that circumstance, gives up the right to financial support by a parent.

There is no formal court process for determining whether a child is emancipated under the law. The concept of emancipation applies in a number of situations, including juvenile court and family court.

In the family court area, the simplest way to seek a finding that a child has emancipated involves filing a motion with the Court. Once you have presented all of the relevant information to the judge, s/he will be in position to determine whether, in fact, your child is self-supporting.

In January of 2007 the Minnesota child support guidelines underwent significant changes. Prior to the enactment of the present legislation found in Minnesota Statutes Section 518A, child support was based soley on the income of the obligor (the paying parent). Today, child support is based upon the relative income of both the obligor and obligee (the receiving parent), taking into account the nature of the physical custody of the minor children of the parties. The intent of the legislature was to enact guidelines that strike a balance in the income of each parent, the time each parent spends with the children and expenses non-custodial parents incur during their parenting time.

Child support involves three types of financial contribution: (1) basic support; (2) medical expenses; and (3) child care costs. Basic support is a monthly cash payment made from one parent to another for the support of the children. Medical support involves the payment of insurance premiums and uninsured expenses. Child care costs involve all work or education-related child care expenses incurred by the parents of a child.

The PICS (percentage of income for child support) of each parent is critical to determining how much support will change hands. The guidelines call for the Court to combine the gross (pre-tax) income of each parent and assign a relative percentage of the combined income to each. Once determined, this percentage (or PICS) is multiplied against the total support figure listed in the guidelines to determine how much basic support must change hands. A non-custodial parent receives a credit against the amount of support to be paid based upon the amount of parenting time they exercise. That same PICS is applied to the actual cost of health premiums, uninsured expenses and daycare to appropriately allocate the obligations of each parent.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently published an article about the Minnesota child support guidelines that were amended as of January 1, 2007. Seems no one is happy with what was sold as a more equitable approach to calculating child support, despite the legislature’s goal of reducing acrimony among split parents.

Reporter Jean Hopfensperger provides examples of mothers who are upset about the reduction in support received and writes that that “Fathers’ rights groups say orders still are set too high and the formula is based on unrealistic child-rearing expenses.”

Unlike the old child support guidelines that looked only at the net income of the paying parent, the new guidelines examine the gross income of both parents and divides support based upon their relative incomes – like most other states. Hopfensperger says that with the sagging economy, more parents are seeking to re-open the issue and see if they can increase the amount received or decrease the amount paid. Many are shocked to learn that the opposite will result.

If you are interested, you can access the Minnesota Child Support Calculator found at the Minnesota Department of Human Services web site to determine updated support amounts in your situation. Keep in mind that a “substantial” change in circumstance must present itself – meaning that under the new guidelines the difference paid or received per month must be at least 20% of the prior obligation and total more than $75.00.