Child Support in Minnesota, Part 1: The Basic Concepts

Sep 11, 2008

In 2006, the Minnesota state legislature approved a drastic overhaul of the state’s child support guidelines based on an “income shares” model.  (See Minn. Stat. 518A)  The new child support guidelines were to be used for all new cases filed after January 1st, 2007, limited modifications in 2007, and for all cases after January 1st, 2008.
Whereas the old system used a fixed percentage of the obligor’s net income based on the number of kids (25% for 1, 30% for 2), the new law is a bit more complex and considers several different factors.  The new law also looks at three distinct categories of child support; basic support, medical support, and childcare support.

PICS and Percentages

The basic premise behind the new law is that the income from both parents’ should be considered.  By combining the gross monthly income of the parents, you get the parties’ PICS (combined parental income for determining child support), you also figure out what percentage of the combined income each parent has.

Basic Support

In the child support statute (518A.35, subd. 2) there is a child support guidelines chart.  The legislators have somehow figured out that parents with a combined monthly income of $X, who have X number of children, spend (or should spend) $X amount a month on support for the children.

For example, lets say Alice and Bob have two kids and a combined monthly income of $4,600.  The magic child support guideline number is $1,200.

So now we look at the percentage of income each parent has.  If Bob and Alice each earn $2,300 a month, then they each have 50% of the income.  If Bob earns $3,450 and Alice earns $1,150, then Bob has 75% of the income and Alice has 25%.

The basic child support number is $600 per month (50% of $1,200) if both parties earn $2,300 (no matter who has primary custody).  If Bob earns $3,450 and Alice earns $1,150, the basic child support number is $900 per month (75% of $,1200) if Alice has primary custody and Bob pays child support or $300 per month (25% of $1,200) if Bob has primary custody and Alice pays child support.

But that is not the end of the calculation.  The new law looks at the amount of time the parents spend with the children.  If the parent paying child support spends 10-45% of the time with the children, there is a 12% reduction from the basic child support number.  If the parent spends 45.1-50% of the time with the children, parenting time is presumed equal and there is a slightly different calculation for child support (518A.36, subd. 3).

Medical Suppport

Medical support is separate from basic support and includes both the cost of medical and dental insurance for the children as well as unreimbursed or out of pocket expenses.  These costs will be shared according to the parties’ percentage of the income (i.e. Bob pays 75% and Alice pays 25%).  If the party without the children covers the insurance, then the basic support obligation will be used to offset the custodial parent’s share of the insurance.

Childcare Support

Childcare support is for work or school related childcare expenses.  Childcare expenses are also paid according to the pareties’ percentage of income.  But because there is a tax benefit to the parent claiming these expenses, the tax benefit is considered first, and then the cost is apportioned between the parties.