Should Minnesota Change How Child Support is Calculated?

Posted by & filed under Child support.

There is change in the air, as it pertains to calculating child support in Minnesota. Currently, child support is calculated based upon the combined income of two parents, and a computation of fixed child support based upon each parent’s share of combined income.  If the children reside primarily with one parent, the non-custodial parent pays a certain sum of support figured by considering the number of children, the parents’ combined income, and the non-custodial parent’s share of the parents’ combined income.

Where the change may come is how the parenting schedule factors into the child support calculation.  Currently, there are three options, based upon how much parenting or custodial time the child support obligor has with the children.  Zero to ten percent; ten to forty-five percent; and more than forty-five percent. A parent’s obligation is reduced (by 12%) if he or she has parenting time more than ten percent of the time.  There is no reduction if one’s parenting time is less than ten percent.  If one’s parenting time is greater than 45 percent, that is considered essentially 50-50 custody, and child support is calculated in a starkly different manner, usually resulting in a much lower sum of support paid from one parent to the other.

The options have been called “cliffs” because there is a big difference between having your kids twelve percent of the time and having your kids forty percent of the time; yet the child support is calculated the same in either instance.

This version of the statute has been in place for several years, and I have found it to be a user-friendly system for parents, attorneys and judges.  Under the previous statute, even small changes in the parenting schedule had an impact on the amount of child support.  Therefore, parents would haggle over one or two overnights per month in order to influence the calculation of child support.  Under the current statute, there is no incentive to haggle except in the relatively unusual circumstance of butting up against the ten percent or forty-five percent thresholds.

The change that is being considered is to bring back the graduated schedule that would factor into the calculation small changes in the parenting schedule.  That model of child support calculation has found favor in Oregon, where it has been in effect for some time.  It is surprising to me that making the change from “cliffs” to the graduated calculation based upon small increments of parenting time has not been troublesome.  I would expect it to cause more haggling between parents over the parenting schedule.  Here’s hoping if Minnesota makes the change, Minnesota doesn’t regret it.


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