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Changes to Calculation of Child Support in Minnesota

As of August 1, 2018, the method for calculating child support in Minnesota has changed. The goal of the change was to eliminate the perceived child support “cliff” that resulted from the parenting expense adjustment. Under the previous child support laws, which were enacted in 2007, child support was calculated based upon an “income shares” model. Under the “income shares” model, both parents’ gross incomes were added together to create a total parental income for determining child support. Each parent was then supposed to pay a percentage of the total child support obligation based upon his or her percentage of their combined income. For example, if the total parental income for determining child support was $10,000 per month, and Mom earns 60% of the total income and Dad earns 40% of the total income, Mom would be responsible for $6,000 per month and Dad would be responsible for $4,000 per month.

Under the old child support law, the parenting expense adjustment would then be applied to these figures. The parenting expense adjustment is a deduction in the child support obligation, and the adjustment correlated to the amount of overnight parenting time each parent had with the child. The old child support law had three separate categories of parenting time:

0-10% parenting time
10.1-45.0% parenting time, and
45.1-50% parenting time.

As you can see, the middle category of 10.1-45% parenting time covers a pretty wide range. Under this old child support law, a parent who exercised parenting time just every-other weekend (about 15%) would end up paying the same amount of child support as a parent who exercised nearly equal parenting time. This “cliff”—i.e., the difference between child support for a parent exercising between 10.1-45% parenting time versus 45.1-50% parenting time—can often be very steep.

Looking at the figures we used above, where Mom earns $6,000 per month and Dad earns $4,000 per month, if the parties have two minor children, Mom would have a basic support obligation of $1,093 per month in the 10.1-45% category, and a basic support obligation of just $310 in the 45.1-50% parenting time category. This is a difference of nearly $800 per month! Significant differences between the categories such as these often generated arguments between parents over an additional overnight or two.

In an effort to “round the cliff,” legislators established a task force to study models from other states to determine what method would best serve Minnesotans. The legislature ended up adopting a model similar to that used in Michigan. The new child support model and legislation is still an “income shares” model, but the categories of parenting time have been eliminated. Instead of the rigid categories of parenting time, the new model is a complex mathematical formula that factors in every overnight, but results in a child support obligation that is gradually increased or decreased with each overnight. For you math-lovers, here is the formula:

Where:

A0 = Approximate annual number of overnight equivalents the children will spend with Parent A
B0 = Approximate annual number of overnight equivalents the children will spend with Parent B.
As = Parent A’s base support obligation
Bs = Parent B’s base support obligation

Fortunately, the Minnesota Department of Health updated their child support calculator to crunch these numbers automatically. You can find a link to the Minnesota Department of Heath’s child support calculator below.

As great as the new model and legislation sounds, the new law does not, in and of itself, provide a basis for a parent to return to court to modify their child support. In other words, you must still demonstrate a basis for modifying child support, separate and apart from the new law change.

If you think the new child support law may impact you, please feel free to call family law attorney Amy Sauter at 507-625-2525 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Helpful Links

Minnesota Child Support Calculator

MN Department of Human Services Child Support Task Force Legislative Report