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.