Child Custody Issues – Determination and modification of support

When parents divorce, the issue of child support can sometimes be contentious. Under the law in Minnesota, a child of divorce has the right to be supported by both parents. The initial determination may not be the end of the matter. Child support can be modified if circumstances change.

In Minnesota, the determination of child support is made by a specific calculation. It includes the following three parts:

  • Basic support. This includes parental payments for the costs for housing, food and clothing, among other expenses. This also includes education expenses, if they apply.
  • Medical support. This is the cost of providing health and dental insurance. It may be paid out by the parent under his or her insurance, or it may be a payment for the costs that the other parent provides. It will also include costs for uninsured or unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
  • Child care support. This is the child care costs for parents who work or are in school.

Minnesota uses the Income Shares method of calculating the exact amount of support. Under Minnesota law, the gross income of each parent is determined. That amount is calculated as the Parental Income for Determining Child Support [PICS], which includes deductions for support of children each parent has with other partners as well as other deductions and credits.

While this may seem complex it is important to understand that the law determines the factors for establishing child support. While there is some leeway for the court to make separate determinations about adjusting the support, the calculations are used to determine the broad amount of support.

In order to modify child support orders, there must be a change in circumstances. This change can be for either of the parents or for the child or children themselves. That change in circumstances may call for a child support modification, if it is approved by the court. A change is a significant rise or fall in income on the part of either parent. Any health care crisis for a parent or the child or other life-changing event may also be considered as a reason to modify child support.

The parties involved can agree to a change and sign a written agreement; they may enter a Stipulation to the court to modify the support order. The judge or magistrate will review the Stipulation and sign it if he or she feels it is warranted. If one party requests a modification, they must enter a Motion to Modify with the court, explaining the need for modification and why the current support order is unreasonable or unfair.

When a parent fails to pay the court-ordered child support obligations, he or she will be subject to the mercy of the family court. Each state has its own child support enforcement office that works in conjunction with the family court; states now are able to work with each other more quickly in sharing information on those parents who fail to pay support. The penalties vary and escalate in severity.