New in Minnesota: Laws in effect August 1, 2018

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Below are some changes to Minnesota statutes passed during the 2018 Legislative Session and in effect as of August 1, 2018. You can see a list of all the laws passed in the 2018 Legislative Session taking effect on August 1 by following this link.

Changes in Family Law

A substantial change in child support order modification - HF3389 

The law states that a court can modify an existing child support order upon a showing that the arrangement’s terms are “unfair” or “unreasonable.” Previously, the law presumed the passing of a statute affecting a child support order did not necessarily constitute a “substantial” change requiring a modification of the support order. The new legislation does away with the presumption, and instead says a statute affecting child support orders may constitute a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification, if the other statutory standards for modification are met. Learn more about the changes occurring in child support law by reading our blog on the subject.

Unmarried parents receive the same rights as divorced parents in child custody process – HF3295

 A new law affords unmarried parents in child custody proceedings the same rights as divorced parents when filing for joint custody. Unmarried parents had previously been barred from using an expedited process available to divorced parents allowing parties to file joint petitions for custody, parenting time, and child support when all parties agreed on the terms. Unmarried parents will now have equal access to this process, which lets parents appear in a hearing before a judge without enduring the entire family court process. The new law will also allow unmarried parents to file the petition without a summons, as long as it includes a recognition of parentage and there is no other alleged or presumed father.

Siblings in foster care have a “right” to be together – HF3265

This legislation seeks to protect children by ensuring siblings in foster care are able to visit each other. The law provides a so-called “bill of rights” for children in foster care, which includes the right to visit and be placed with their siblings, when possible. Child welfare workers will be required to provide each child in foster care with a copy of the bill of rights. Another new portion of the law requires foster family license holders, caregivers, and staff to undergo at least one hour of training on fetal alcohol spectrum disorders each year.

Laws Addressing Public Safety

3M to provide $850 million in major environmental settlement – HF3660

 A new piece of legislation puts the settlement terms of an eight-year lawsuit between the state and 3M into law. The lawsuit by the state alleged 3M’s use and development of certain chemicals had contaminated local drinking water since the 1950s. Under the terms of the settlement, 3M will pay $850 million to fund projects to improve drinking water and natural resources in an area including Woodbury, Oakdale, Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, St. Paul Park, Afton, Newport, and the townships of West Lakeland and Grey Cloud Island.

“Safe Seniors Act” poised to tackle financial fraud – HF3833

The “Safe Seniors Act” gives broker dealers and investment advisors the authority to report suspicious activity related to financial exploitation of seniors (65 and older) to the Department of Commerce or the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center. Broker dealers and investment advisors are uniquely positioned to spot and prevent financial abuse, and the Act will further allow such persons to freeze seniors’ accounts or delay disbursements if financial exploitation is believed to have occurred or suspected to occur. Additionally, the law shields abuse reporters from civil and administrative liability arising from reports made under the Safe Seniors Act.

If you can’t move over, then at least slow down – HF3249

This law expands Minnesota’s “move over” law, which requires motorists to move over one lane when passing emergency response vehicles on the road. If there is only one lane in the motorist’s direction or it is not possible for the motorist to move over on a multi-lane road, the motorist must reduce his or her speed to a point “reasonable and prudent under the conditions.” This mandate applies not only when passing emergency vehicles, but tow trucks and certain road maintenance crews as well.

Sealed bidding threshold for city contracts to increase – HF3481

The law increases the threshold for municipal contracts required to go through the sealed bidding process, setting the threshold cost at $175,000. Further, the law expands the range of estimates that may be produced by direct negotiation from $25,000-$100,000 to $25,000-$175,000.

“Little Alan’s Law” closes DWI loophole – HF3905

Eight-year-old Alan died last winter after he was struck by a snowmobile driven by an intoxicated driver. The driver was operating the snowmobile despite the fact that his Minnesota driver’s license had previously been revoked for a DWI. Recognizing the loophole created which allowed the driver to operate his snowmobile despite losing his driver’s license, the Minnesota legislature passed a new law under which DWI offenses committed in any vehicle will prohibit the offender from operating a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle for one year, or a motorboat for a 90-day period in the summer. In keeping with the statutory scheme, the law also eliminates a gap which allowed motor vehicle drivers to retain their driver’s licenses following a recreational vehicle DWI offense. The law also requires the Department of Natural Resources to team up with ice house manufacturers to increase awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide exposure in such ice houses. The DNR must provide a report on the topic to the Minnesota Legislature by January 15, 2019..  

Don’t fib about Fido, it could be criminal – HF3157

Knowingly misrepresenting an animal as a service animal in a public place with the goal of obtaining rights or privileges available to someone with a service animal is now a criminal offense under Minnesota law. The new law incorporates the federal definition of “service animal” into the state statute. Under that definition, only dogs trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability constitute “service animals.” The definition does not encompass animals other than dogs or “[t]he provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship” as a task which confers service animal status. A first-time violation of the statute is a petty misdemeanor, and subsequent offenses are misdemeanors. The Council on Disability will have an opportunity to prepare brochures for businesses to detail questions a business owner may ask a patron to determine whether an animal is a service animal. Further, the law protects property owners from liability for injury or damage caused by the animal if the owner “believes in good faith that the animal is an assistance animal or the individual using the assistance animal represents that the animal is an assistance animal,” and the property owner did not cause the injury or damage by his/her own negligence.

Day care providers no longer required to post correction orders – HF3432

Under former law, licensed family child care providers were required to post correction orders handed down from the Department of Human Services in a visible place within the facility for two years. Correction orders are now posted online, thus motivating legislators to believe requiring posted physical copies was duplicative and unnecessary. 

Start seeing motorcycle permit-holders . . . on Interstates – SF3466

Motorcycle instruction permit-holders may now conduct their two-wheeled education on Minnesota Interstate Highways, an avenue previously closed to such individuals.

Hotels must train employees to spot sex trafficking – SF3367

In an effort to combat sex trafficking, the Minnesota legislature is requiring every hotel and motel in the state to train employees on what sex trafficking is and how to identify victims and behaviors. By law, the training must take place within 90 days of hiring the employee, or within 120 days of the statute’s August 1, 2018 enactment.

State law mandates procedures for handling sexual assault kits in hopes of faster turnarounds – SF2863

 This law provides several safeguards intended to ensure faster processing of sexual assault kits and that victims have access to information about their kits. Under the new law, law enforcement must collect unrestricted sexual assault examination kits from hospitals within ten days. Thereafter, law enforcement must submit the kit for testing within sixty days, unless it believes “the result of the kit would not add evidentiary value to the case.” If that is the case, law enforcement must consult with a county attorney and make a record detailing why the kit was not submitted. The law also creates means through which the victim can receive information about the status of an unrestricted kit.

Child Support: Does the change in law change yours?

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A major change to Minnesota child support laws took effect August 1, 2018.

Child support in Minnesota is calculated based on the “income shares model,” which considers the combined income of both parents, and each parent’s percentage thereof, to determine the amount of support each parent owes. Take, for example, two parents who make a combined $10,000 per month. If Parent 1 makes 70% of that total income, and Parent 2 makes the other 30%, Parent 1 is responsible for 70% and Parent 2 is responsible for 30%, known as PICS (percentage of income). The intent of the income shares model is to preserve the financial situation of children of separated parents.

 After the income calculation, child support contributions are then adjusted according to the statute-provided “parenting expense adjustment,” or “PEA.” The PEA may reduce the child support obligation based on the amount of parenting time the parent has with the child. The PEA recognizes that parents spend money on their children during their parenting time, regardless of whether they are the custodial parent. Thus, a noncustodial parent with significant parenting time should pay less in child support than a noncustodial parent with no parenting time.

This is where the change occurs.

Under the old laws, there were three categories of parenting time used to determine the PEA: less than 10% of parenting time, 10-45% of parenting time, and 45.1-50% of parenting time. A parent who had less than 10% of the parenting time received no adjustment, while a parent with 45.1% of parenting time was essentially treated as having equal parenting time. Issues arose within the dubious middle category. In the 10-45% range, a parent with 11% of the parenting time received the same support adjustment as someone with 44% of parenting time. Two or three overnights per year with the child could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars of child support each month.  As you can imagine, these large gaps (or “cliffs,” as they are known) created fertile ground for arguments between parents over fairly small amounts of parenting time.

The new approach will remove these “cliffs” by providing a larger range of parenting time categories within the 10-45% range. Thus, relatively minor adjustments in parenting time will not gravely impact the child support obligations of the noncustodial parent. Hopefully, this change in the law means parents can better concentrate on the needs and interests of their children in determining a parenting schedule.

Will this change affect my child support order?

Maybe. Previously, a change in child support legislation did not constitute a “substantial” change in circumstances to justify a modification to a child support order. However, a new law (also effective August 1), will do away with the old presumption. Now, if the other standards of modification in the statute are met, a judge may consider a change in legislation in deciding whether a substantial change in circumstances has resulted in an unreasonable or unfair child support order.  If you believe these changes may impact you, please contact our office.