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Minnesota Family Law and Child Support Answers - Custody, Child Support, Spousal Maintenance

Shoemaker & Shoemaker PLLC provides the following articles on Minnesota family law topics including child support, custody, spousal maintenance (alimony) and property division for informational purposes only.  The articles are not intended as legal advice.  You should consult an attorney to review any specific questions you have.  Please call Minnesota Divorce Attorney Paul Shoemaker today at 952.224.4605 for answers to your divorce and family law questions.

Frequently Asked Questions in Minnesota Divorce Proceedings

How is Child Custody Decided?

How is Child Support Determined and Paid in Minnesota?

When is Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) Granted?

How is Child Support Determined and Paid in Minnesota?

Minnesota Child Support – Basic Questions and Answers

The Minnesota Legislature made changes in the manner in which child support is determined under a law that became effective on January 1, 2007. The statute was again amended in 2018 to modify the manner in which parenting time would impact child support.   The provisions are found in Chapter 518A of the Minnesota statutes. This article will provide a basic overview of the key provisions of the parental income shares child support calculation and provide resources to the reader for further information.

Question: When is Child Support Ordered?

Answer: Child support is ordered whenever a married couple with minor children divorce or obtain a decree of legal separation. If a married couple with minor children lives separate and apart, a parent or the public authority may seek a support order. If a child is born to parents who are not married to each other, paternity (parentage) must be established before a support order will be issued. Finally if a child is in the physical custody of an entity or individual other than the parent, either by consent or court order, a support order can be entered in favor of the entity or custodian.

“Child support” includes several different costs related to the expenses of children – a monetary amount for the care and support of the child – called basic support; “medical” support for insurance and prescriptions; work or education related “child care” costs; and support arrearages or payments to a public authority made on behalf of a child.

Question: How is Minnesota Child Support Determined?

Answer: Under the combined parental income for child support calculation (PICS), both the custodial and non-custodial parent’s gross incomes are used – with an adjustment for parenting time applied, as discussed below.  Basic support is calculated using the combined gross incomes and a determination of each parent’s proportionate share of the combined income. The parent with the greater income will generally pay basic support to the other parent except if the parents share 50/50 physical custody and their expenses for their children are equal. The calculation of the amount is a function of the combined incomes (PICS), the number of children supported, and the amount provided in the guideline child support chart in the statutes. This amount is the presumptive amount of support the parents should pay and is allocated between the parents based on their proportionate share of the PICS.

The gross income of a parent includes all regular and periodic sources of income (and will include the receipt of any periodic gifts to the parent, e.g., periodic payments from a trust or gifts). The calculation no longer “nets” out a parent’s income (including deductions for income taxes, retirement contributions, union dues, health insurance, or other prior statutory deductions.

Gross income does not include child support received, public assistance payments, or a parent’s co-spouse’s income.  Also, court ordered payments for spousal maintenance are deducted from the payer’s gross income; spousal maintenance received is added to the recipient parent’s gross income.

For any parent who the Court finds is “voluntarily unemployed, underemployed, or employed on less than a full-time basis” or if there is “no direct evidence of income,” child support will be calculated on the parent’s “potential” income.  Potential income can be based on an estimate of the parent’s probable earnings based on the parent’s employment history, the parent’s unemployment benefits or the amount the parent would earn if the parent were working full time and receiving 150% of the current minimum wage (highest amount of the above). This rule applies to both parents – regardless of the physical custody arrangement.

The imputation of potential income can be added to a parent’s evidence of income from another periodic source – such as gifts, dividends, royalties, or trust payments – to arrive at the parent’s gross income for purposes of computing child support.

The parent ordered to remit payments is called the “obligor” while the parent receiving the payments is the “obligee.”

Question: Is there any Adjustment to Child Support?

Answer: Non-custodial parents will receive an adjustment to their child support amount depending on the amount of time they are granted for parenting time. Child support is based on the amount of parenting time granted in the divorce decree or custody order – and is not based on the actual amount of parenting time the non-custodial parent exercises. 

If the non-custodial parent is granted less than 10% of time, no adjustment to basic support is made. A reduction of 12% in the child support amount is granted if the non-custodial parent is granted parenting time between 10 percent and 45 percent of the time. If the parents generally share physical custody (at least 46% of time granted to each parent), an additional adjustment is made.

The Court may decide to order an amount other than “basic support” if certain “deviation factors” are present.  The deviation factors include several factors, including earnings and resources of both parents, any extraordinary financial needs or resources of the child, the child’s living standards if the parents were living together, who gets the tax exemption, the parents’ debts and an obligor’s total payments for court-ordered child support.

Question: How is Gross Income Calculated for Self-Employed Persons?

Answer: Income for self-employed persons or from the operation of a business means the gross revenues derived from employment or the business, less “ordinary and necessary expenses.” Ordinary and necessary expenses generally must relate to the operation of the business and will not include accelerated depreciation expenses or investment tax credits, or expenses that are found to be inappropriate or excessive. Any self-employed person 0r a person who works as an independent contractor has the burden in court to prove that expenses they seek to deduct from their gross revenues are a legitimate business expense. After deducting all proper expenses from gross receipts, the remaining amount will be considered “actual” income. Under certain circumstances, a self-employed individual may also face the imputation of potential income unless they can show they are fully employed and not “underemployed” or working less than full-time in their vocation. 

Question: Is Child Support Paid When Both Parents Share Joint Physical Custody?

Answer: If parenting time and parental incomes are equal, no basic child support will generally be payable unless the expenses of the child(ren) are not shared equally by the parents. Even if parenting time is equal, if the parental incomes are different, the parent with the higher income will usually pay basic child support to the other parent to balance the household resources of both homes. The guideline formula is adjusted for the equal parenting time and the final award will consider the differences in each parent’s income.

Question: How are Medical Support and Child Care Expenses Allocated?

Answer: Expenses incurred by a parent (either custodial or non-custodial) for health insurance – medical support and child care (day-care) expenses are allocated under a support order.

Medical support will include an order providing for the continuation of health insurance for the minor children, making a cash contribution to the parent who maintains coverage to reimburse the parent for the cost of coverage, and allocating the un-reimbursed or uncovered expenses between the parents.

Work or education related child-care expenses are allocated between the parents in proportion to the parent’s combined parental income for child support and the costs of care are adjusted based on the estimated federal and state child care credits available.

Question: How can I calculate Child Support?

Answer: Minnesota Department of Human Services provides a web-based calculator that is available to the public for calculating basic child support and medical and child care support.  Please understand that the final amount of child support ordered by a Court may differ from the results obtained through this calculation (for example, if the calculation is based on incorrect or incomplete information) but the calculator is routinely used by magistrates, referees and judges to calculate child support in Minnesota.

The calculator is available at http://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/Calculator.aspx

You will need to input your basic information, the number of overnights for Parent A for each child and then submit the information for calculation. If you have questions, click on the instruction link for additional information. “Parent A” is the parent without primary physical custody. If both parents share equal parenting time, Parent A is the parent with the higher income. “Parent B” is the parent with physical custody or the parent with the lower income if parenting time is shared equally. If you have questions, you can click on highlighted text for additional information.

If you need additional assistance in determining or establishing child support in your case, please contact us. We would be happy to review your case to determine how we may be able to assist you in achieving a fair child support order.  

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Additional Questions and Answers on Modifying Minnesota Basic, Medical and Day Care Child Support

 Question: I got divorced several years ago and 3 of my kids are out of high school. My child support obligation has not changed since my divorce was final.  Do I have to keep paying child support at the same amount when only 1 of my kids is still a minor?

 Answer: Yes, but . . . An obligor has a legal obligation to continue paying child support as originally ordered until a court modifies that obligation based on the parties’ present circumstances. Modification can be made by court approved agreement or by the court after hearing.  The obligor in this instance should seek advice to determine if the obligation could be modified based upon the new circumstances. It is likely that basic child support would be less if there is only 1 remaining “child” for child support purposes. In a recent review made on behalf of an obligor originally ordered to support 4 children, the obligor was entitled to reduce his obligation to less than 50% of the ordered amount when only 1 child remained eligible for support. Since every dollar saved or paid is an "after tax" or "net" dollar, modification should be sought as soon as significant change in circumstances occurs.


Question:  I think my-ex (the obligor) is making a lot more money now than when we got divorced. Can I seek more child support? How do I know if my-ex's financial circumstances have improved?

Answer:  Yes, you can seek a modification of child support to increase the monthly amount of basic child support. The court will compare the gross incomes of you and the ex (obligor) at the time of the prior order with your respective current gross incomes. If there is an existing child support order in force, the obligee can request a copy of the obligor’s most recent filed US income tax return to determine if the income has changed. The obligor has an obligation to supply the return to the obligee within 30 days of the request. This request can be made every two years. If you do not receive cooperation, both parties are required to file financial documentation with the court to establish their present earnings.


Question: What do I have to prove in order to modify my current child support?

Answer: To determine if a child support obligation is modifiable (either to increase or decrease the amount), the circumstances that existed at the time of the prior order are compared to the present circumstances. If there has been a change in amount of earned income, the cost of insurance, a change or termination in daycare expenses, or change in living expenses, modification may be warranted. A statutory threshold formula for modification is to determine if the new circumstances would result (+ or -) in a change of at least 20% of the ordered amount and/or (+ or -) $75 per month. If so, then the prior order is presumed unreasonable and unfair and a new amount of basic, medical and daycare child support should be ordered.


Question: Can I get retroactive relief when I have overpaid?

Answer:  An obligor or obligee is entitled to relief retroactive to the date they filed a motion with the court seeking to modify their existing child support order. If you believe modification is warranted, you should immediately file a motion to change the ordered amount (whether you seek to increase the obligation or decrease your obligation). 

Contact Minnesota's Divorce Attorney Paul Shoemaker today at 952.224.4605 to discuss your rights to modify child support.


© 2019 Paul F. Shoemaker

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If you are interested in further reading on Minnesota child support, see an excellent overview with questions and answers provided at the following link by author Lynn Aves:


When is Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) Granted in Minnesota Divorces?

The following article is intended to provide a brief explanation of the legal grounds to recovering spousal maintenance (alimony) under Minnesota law. The statutory provision governing spousal maintenance is Minnesota Statute Section 518.552.


Upon the dissolution of any marriage in Minnesota and in legal separation proceedings, either party may petition for an award of spousal maintenance from their spouse. In determining whether or not a party is in need of continuing payments from the earnings of their spouse during the time the proceeding is underway and/or following the entry of a final decree, the Court analyzes several factors required by Section 518.552. Marital misconduct is not considered when determining whether or not to grant spousal maintenance.


The Court may grant temporary or permanent spousal maintenance if the spouse requesting maintenance/alimony:


1. Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage, especially, but not limited to, a period of training or education, or


2. Is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.


The foregoing are considered "threshold" factors, in that the spouse requesting maintenance must satisfy either one of these two factors before a Court will consider awarding temporary or permanent spousal maintenance. In addition, the spouse requesting maintenance must show they have a need for maintenance, after considering financial resources available from property awarded to them in the divorce or from other sources.


If the Court decides that maintenance is appropriate, it will order payment of maintenance in amounts and for periods of time that it deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, and after considering all relevant factors. No mathematical formula is used by statute and the Court must assess the following factors in determining a just award:


1. The financial resources of the person seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to the person, and the person's ability to meet needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the person includes a sum for that person as custodian;


2. The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the person seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the probability, given the person's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming fully or partially self-supporting;


3. The standard of living established during the marriage;


4. The duration of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience have become outmoded and earning capacity has become permanently diminished;


5. The loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities foregone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;


6. The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;


7. The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; and


8. The contribution of each person in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or in furtherance of the other person's employment or business.


A temporary award is generally made to provide support for a fixed (limited) period of time, usually to enable the requesting party to complete training or education to become self-supporting. A permanent award continues indefinitely or until the occurrence of some stated event, such as remarriage of the requesting party, death of either party, retirement of the obligor, or further court order. A temporary award of maintenance is not favored over a permanent award where the above factors justify a permanent award. Finally, where there is some uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award, the court is required to make the award of maintenance permanent, but subject to later modification.


Unlike child support, there is no precise formula for determining the amount or duration of an award of spousal maintenance. Given the absence of any formula, the amount and duration of spousal maintenance awards can be strongly contested by parties in a divorce and the decision is left to the trial judge's broad discretion. The final decision of the trial judge will not be overturned on appeal unless the trial court abused its broad discretion, meaning that the decision constitutes a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts presented to the trial court.


As with any issue in a divorce proceeding, efforts should be made early in the proceeding to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of this claim by comparing the facts presented to other reported cases, which can serve to guide the lawyer and client in determining what settlement offers should be made or considered. If you have questions concerning spousal maintenance, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you.

Call Bloomington, Minnesota's Top Divorce Attorney Paul Shoemaker today at 952.224.4605 for more information or to arrange your complimentary consultation.



© 2019-2023 Paul F. Shoemaker

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Other Family Law Articles

Frequently Asked Questions in Minnesota Divorce Proceedings

How is Child Custody Decided?

Call Minnesota's Best Top Divorce Attorney Paul Shoemaker today at 952.224.4605 for more information or to arrange your complimentary consultation. Call Minnesota's best attorney for Federal Fair Housing John R. Shoemaker today at 952.224.4610 for more information.


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Last modified: January 19, 2024