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.

Many couples question whether they can deviate from the Minnesota child support guidelines by agreement. While the court ultimately has discretion to do so, it does not happen very often. In fact, we’ve had orders kicked back because our stipulated support calculation was off by as little as $5.00 per month. Courts consider child support the “child’s money,” and, as a result, rarely afford parents the ability to unilaterally negotiate a different figure.

At the same time, however, we have successfully persuaded the courts to deviate. In considering a deviation from the child support guidelines, the court will examine factors such as:

  • Earnings, income and resources of the parties;
  • Financial needs and resources of the child;
  • Physical and emotional needs of the child;
  • Educational needs of the child;
  • Standard of living the child would enjoy in the absence of divorce;
  • Tax implications associated with the child’s dependency exemption;
  • Debts of the parties; and
  • Receipt of public assistance.

If the court deems appropriate, it may order or permit a child support obligation greater than, or less than, the Minnesota child support support guidelines. Still, the odds are against.

The court will “impute” income if your spouse is voluntarily underemployed. Rest assured, you have nothing to fear.

Let’s suppose your spouse is trained as a physician and decides, for the time being, to work as a waiter at a local restaurant. The court can take an individual’s education, work history, job opportunities in the local market and earnings associated with those jobs into account in calculating appropriate child or spousal support. Assuming your spouse is reasonably assured of obtaining a position as a doctor with a six-figure salary, a doctor’s salary will be attributed to them.

One of the more common discussions we have with new clients involves a spouse’s claim (with laughter) that they will quit their job and our client will receive nothing. “I’ll quit my job” they say. Wrong strategy. Your spouse is free to work in whatever capacity they wish. At the end of the day, however, the amount of support they pay is based on what they actually earn or have the potential to earn, whichever is greater.

Following the entry of a child support order, the recipient of support has the option of receiving payment directly from the payor or through collection by the county child support office. Most recipients find the services offered by their local child support collection agency very beneficial. Child support officers not only collect monthly support payments through wage withholding, but they also pursue unpaid support (arrears) with the assistance of the county attorney.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has established a link to every child support office in the State of Minnesota. Visit the link here to obtain contact information about the child support office in your county.