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How does child support work in Minnesota?

Calculating child support is one of the most important aspects of a divorce for the financial well-being of a spouse and, more importantly, the children's health and safety. A child is entitled to financial support from both parents under Minnesota law.

When parents no longer live together, they can seek a court order for child support payments. Grandparents or another person who has third-party custody may also seek an order compelling child support from both or either parents.

Child support is not defined as the purchase of gifts or other items for the child. Child support has three major elements. The first component is basic support for caring for the child such as housing, food, clothing, transportation and education. The next item is medical support to pay for medical and dental insurance, and uninsured or unreimbursed dental and medical expenses. Payments for childcare when a parent goes to work is the third and last item.

Minnesota law contains child support guidelines. Child support guidelines determine support based upon the gross income of both parents, the number of children and the cost of raising children at various levels of income. Calculations are based on Income Shares Formula. It is legally presumed that both parents can or should work to earn an income. Both parents' gross income or potential income are accordingly used in this child support formula.

Court-ordered parenting time and visitation amounts are part of this formula. When a parent has parenting time between 10 and 45 percent, a parent is entitled to a 12 percent reduction in child support that the parent owes. Child support payments are not reduced when parenting time is below 10 percent. Overnights are counted to calculate the percentage of parenting time.

Both parents have to provide specific details about their income or a court will order child support payments based on other evidence that is available, such as earlier work history or the other parent's testimony. Minnesota law also allows courts to set a minimum amount including 150 percent of the higher of the federal or state minimum wage.

Source: Minnesota Judicial Branch, "Child support," Accessed Feb. 29, 2016

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