Child support can be one of the most technically-complex aspects of family law. Parents often feel confused or anxious about dealing with child support determinations, which is why you should make sure that you have one of our attorneys ensure that the interests of both you and your child are looked after. Child support is a topic many parents are uncomfortable discussing – oftentimes people hate the idea of thinking about money and, in their minds, “paying extra” for their children. Nevertheless, child support obligations have significant and far-reaching consequences that impact the lives of both parents and children for the entirety of a child’s life. You should make sure you are educated on your rights and responsibilities. We represent both obligor and obligee parents in negotiation and, where necessary, litigation. Below are a few major questions we often hear from clients coming to us with concerns regarding child support payments. If you have further questions, call our offices at (952) 470-6361 for a consultation.
How do courts calculate child support payments? The Minnesota Department of Human Services maintains a calculator to give you an idea of what a parent’s child support payments might be. These guidelines are based on each parent’s income, the number of joint children requiring support and the amount of child care and medical costs paid by the non-obligor parent, as well as the financial resources of both parents and each parents’ ability to pay, and the child’s standard of living while the parents were together. While courts usually look to this calculation as a default, they are not obligated to adhere strictly to this calculation, and can deviate from the guidelines based on many factors.
Can I modify my current child support order? It is possible to modify a child support order by filing a petition with the courts if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last time an order was entered. This usually consists of one parent making significantly more or less money, or a new, unforeseen need for the child arising, such as a major medical or educational expense.
I cannot pay child support right now. What should I do? If you are unable to pay child support presently, but will be able to do so in the future (because of, for instance, a short term layoff or illness), you have several options. If the obligee parent is willing to work with you, you can agree to temporarily suspend child support payments. However, if the obligee parent refuses to compromise, you can make a motion with the court to modify, permanently or temporarily, your current child support order, based on the change in circumstances. Under no circumstance should you ever just stop paying child support you are ordered to pay, unless you have no other option.
I have a child with a parent ordered to pay child support and they are not paying it. Can I force them to? Generally, if an obligor parent is not paying child support, you can make a motion in court to compel them to do so. Courts have the ability to order wage garnishment (where money is automatically deducted from the obligor parent’s paychecks), or can order them to pay you directly via cash or other means. Defying a court order to pay can result in an obligor parent being found in contempt of court, which carries with it potential civil and criminal charges.
My former partner has children with another person. Will I be obligated to pay child support for those children? No. Child support orders are based on the needs of each individual joint child, and the resources of the joint parents. You cannot be held liable for child support for children who are not yours. However, if your former partner alleges that a non-joint child is yours, you may be responsible to appear in court to contest those allegations.
My child’s parent has the ability to work, but refuses to do so, in order to escape paying child support. What can I do? If a parent genuinely cannot work, but makes attempts to, a court will usually temporarily suspend child support obligations. However, if a court finds that the obligor parent is willfully refusing to find work, it can impute income to that parent. This imputation is based on either (1) money the parent could be making, based on reasonable market metrics, past earning history, and that parent’s education, training, and experience, or (2) the amount a person could make working 30 hours per week at 100% of the current federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.
I am already paying spousal maintenance. Why should I have to pay child support too? Spousal maintenance is money given from one spouse to another in order to permanently or temporarily provide for that spouse’s needs, and enable that benefitted spouse to maintain a similar standard of living to that maintained during the marriage. Child support is money provided from one parent to another, to be held for the benefit of the child. The money must be used to provide for a child’s basic needs (housing, food, clothing, education, and transportation); a parent cannot, for instance, use child support funds to take a luxurious vacation on their own.