Child Support in MN
Parents generally want what is best for their children, but there are also important financial considerations involved for each of the parents.
Minnesota has long had child support guidelines that apply to assist in determination of child support obligations of each of the parents. Previously, the guidelines applied to the net income of the payor parent and had a "maximum" that was indexed to a federal cost of living index.
In recent years, however, the Minnesota legislature has made major changes in those guidelines. The new method of calculating child support is often referred to as the "income shares model." Child support is no longer set using a parent's net monthly income. Instead, the new guidelines utilize "gross income" and takes into account the income of the recipient parent as well as the amount of parenting time each parent enjoys. While there has been a major change to the child support laws, child support continues to consist of three separate parts: "basic support," "child care support," and "medical support."
As indicated, a Court now uses gross income when setting child support. One must be careful when determining a parent's gross income. A parent's W-2 form, which is used to file taxes, reflects gross taxable income and gross income from that employment. However, "gross income" for child support purposes includes any form of periodic payment to an individual, including, but not limited to:
- Salaries and wages, before any deductions, including participation in employer sponsored pre-tax plans or retirement plans
- Self-employment income
- Workers' compensation
- Unemployment benefits
- Annuity payments
- Military and naval retirement
- Pension and disability payments
- Spousal maintenance received under a previous order or the current proceeding
- Social security or veterans benefits provided for a joint child
- Potential income
Because many of the periodic payments listed above may not be included in a person's W-2 forms, other methods must be employed to determine these gross income items.
By statute, income received from employment in excess of a 40 hour work week may be excluded. However, there are situations in which overtime pay may be included. Other sources of income, however, are not included in gross income, such as public assistance benefits, the income of the parent's spouse, and a child support payment received by a parent.
After child support is set according to the new guidelines, modifications to that obligation may occur. One parent's support obligation may be modified in certain appropriate situations, such as the substantial increase or decrease gross income of an obligor or obligee.
Our child support attorneys can help you understand the application of the child support guidelines.
Child support cases are sometimes heard in the district court and sometimes heard by child support magistrates under an expedited process. Furthermore, under certain circumstances, parents can reach and implement agreements between themselves regarding the amount of child support and allocation of related costs. We can help you understand which applies to you and what procedures are applicable in each of those settings.
Children become adults in Minnesota at age 18, and upon graduation from high school, child support for such children ceases. There are circumstances under which a younger child can be emancipated and child support cease. Also, our experienced attorneys can discuss with you under what very limited circumstances the court could make an order with respect to college expenses for your children.
Changes to the child support law also now require that spousal maintenance (alimony) be determined before child support can be calculated. The changes also make it more likely that income would be imputed to a parent and deviations from the guidelines may be more frequent.
There are many circumstances that may affect the level of support as well as impact the success of subsequent modification motions. Our experienced team can guide you through the process of establishing child support, modifying child support, or helping with any other family support issue.
Child Custody Issues
Child custody issues often create the most emotional stresses in any divorce.
The considerations are complex when dealing with the impact of divorce upon children. On the one hand, many couples stay together “for the sake of the children” trying to put aside or hide their own mounting differences. On the other hand, children learn from their parents’ behavior; it may be that all they know about marriage is what they observe in their own home. Lack of respect, lack of physical affection, verbal and physical abuse, etc., may be learned by children and repeated in their own relationships. As parents, we would not want that.
At the heart of it all, of course, are the children who are innocent victims. At Dittrich & Lawrence, P.A., our child custody attorneys are experienced in helping clients reach acceptable resolutions in child custody disputes. We exclusively practice Minnesota family law, and have considerable experience in how the courts will apply the child custody laws and principles in our state.
There are two kinds of custody in all Minnesota divorce cases: “Legal” custody and “physical” custody. There are important differences between the two. Joint legal custody is “presumed” in Minnesota. While joint physical custody is legally possible, it is not favored by courts in Minnesota. You will need to discuss your situation with an experienced Family Law attorney to understand your rights and choices, and what the Courts are likely to do when faced with the facts of your case.
The “non-custodial” parent is entitled by law to “Parenting Time.,” a term now used instead of “visitation.” The purpose of Parenting Time is to allow the non-custodial parent a greater opportunity to continue and expand his or her relationship with the children. One of our experienced divorce attorneys can help you understand what are typical Parenting Time arrangements, including weekends, evenings, vacations, holidays, etc.
We can tell you about “Parenting Time Expeditors,” and advise you how Parenting Time disputes are often resolved. We can also tell you about “Guardians ad Litem,” and under what circumstances a Court would be likely to appoint such a guardian.
You may hear or read the terms “Early Neutral Evaluator or Evaluation.” This is a form of alternative dispute resolution that attempts to assist the parties in determining what a likely outcome of a child custody dispute between them might be at a very early stage in their dissolution case. Child custody trials are time-consuming and expensive. They inevitably will do harm to the family’s relationships and the child’s interests in maintaining a good relationship with each of his or her parents. Your child custody attorney can assist you in resolving these disputes with the best interests of your child in mind.
Our child custody lawyers are familiar with the new concept of “Virtual Visitation.” They can explain it to you and suggest whether it is applicable to your family situation.
Child custody arrangements can be modified or reversed under some circumstances. Our child custody lawyers can help you understand whether the test for such modification is likely to be “best interests of the child” or “physical or emotional endangerment of the child.” The experienced child visitation attorney can also help you deal with the issues associated with one parents’ attempt to relocated the residence of the child, either within the state or out of the state.