The mission of the child support program is to promote the well-being of children and the self-sufficiency of families by delivering quality child support services.
Once a parent has applied for child support services, all payments must go through the Minnesota Child Support Payment Center. Learn more about payment options.
When you apply for services, you also agree to pay a two percent cost recovery fee on your payments, if you are the applicant and receive child support, or on your obligation if you are the applicant and pay child support.
If you or your minor child/children receive cash assistance from the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or the Diversionary Work Program (DWP), Medical Assistance (MA), or Child Care Assistance, the agency will for no fee:
- Automatically open a child support case for you
- Expect you to provide information and cooperate in establishing paternity
- Expect you to assist in establishing an order for support and collection.
You can also print the application (PDF) and mail to:
Washington County Community Services
P.O. Box 30
Stillwater, MN 55082
Definition of Paternity
Paternity is a term meaning the legal father of the child.
Every child has a biological father. The biological father is the man with whom a child's mother becomes pregnant. The legal father is the man the law recognizes as the father of the child. The legal father may or may not be the biological father.
When a woman is married and becomes pregnant, it is presumed that her husband is the legal father of the child, and paternity is established without the parents having to take any legal action.
When an unmarried woman has a child, an official action is needed to establish the legal father of the child. This is called the establishing of paternity.
How to Establish Paternity
When a child is born to an unmarried mother, paternity can be established if:
- Both parents agree that the man is the biological father and want him to be the legal father and they sign a Recognition of Parentage
- Either or both parents ask the court to enter a court order finding that the man is the legal father of the child
- The parents marry after the child is born. Both parents sign an affidavit and file it with the Office of the State Registrar. Paternity is then established if no other documents filed earlier name another man as the child's legal father.
Parentage must be established before a father's name can be placed on the child's birth certificate.
Reasons to Establish Paternity/Child Support Court Order
The benefits to the child are:
- Access to family medical history
- Health insurance coverage, if available
- Access to genetic testing
- Financial support
- Legal documentation of his or her parents
- Support from both parents
- The right to inherit from either parent
- The right to receive Social Security or veteran's benefits, if available
Methods of Establishing Parentage
Most parents pay their child support obligation as ordered. However, when a parent is not paying child support, the child support office is able to use enforcement remedies to encourage parents to pay. Specific criteria must be met before enforcement action can be taken.
Automatic income withholding may help prevent other enforcement actions from becoming necessary. The purpose of strong enforcement activities is not to penalize parents but to stress the importance of paying support.
Methods of Collections
- Contempt of Court Action
- Credit Bureau Reporting
- Driver's License Suspension
- Financial Institution Data Match
- Income Withholding
- Lottery Winning Intercept
- Passport Denial
- Student Grant Hold
- Tax Intercepts
- Locating Parents
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
Minnesota is one of several states that has a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for child support orders. The amount of basic support ordered is to be adjusted every two years based on changes in the consumer price index or cost of living.
The child support office takes the steps to get the cost of living in the child support orders they enforce. This adjustment happens every other year on May 1.
For cases where the payments are not made through the child support office, the parent receiving basic support must make the application for COLA and may make the request two years after the date of the court order that sets basic support.
An advanced notice, with the proposed COLA amount, is sent to the parent and becomes effective automatically unless a hearing is requested.
For more information about COLA in Minnesota, see the Guide to Child Support and Spousal Maintenance Cost of Living Adjustments
If you have a case open with the child support office and are either court-ordered to pay or receive child support, you may ask that the child support office review your court order for a possible modification for no fee.
Modifications of Child Support Orders
The following people/groups may ask for a modification:
- Parents who pay child support
- Parents (or caregivers) who receive child support
- Washington County child support office
- Child support offices from other states
A modification may be requested in one of three ways:
- Contact your child support officer by phone or in writing to request your order be reviewed
- Go to court on your own; instructions to file a motion without an attorney and without the assistance of the child support office, can be obtained from Minnesota Courts
- Hire a private attorney
Situations When Modifications May Be Requested
You can ask that the child support office review your court order for a possible modification if you have a substantial change in circumstances, such as:
- You are laid off from your job
- You get a new job
- Your income or the other parent's income increases or decreases
- You become disabled
- You go to jail, prison, or inpatient treatment for chemical dependency or mental health issues
- You are deployed to active military service
- You receive cash public assistance or no longer receive cash public assistance
Generally, the court will assume there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that the terms of the current support order may be changed if:
- The support under the basic support formula is at least 20% and at least $75 per month higher or lower than the current support order or, if the current support order is less than $75 per month, it results in a court order that is at least 20% per month higher or lower
- The medical provisions of the order are not enforceable by the child support office or the other party
- Health coverage is no longer available to the child by the parent currently ordered to provide it
- The existing support order is in the form of a percentage and not a specific dollar amount
In order for the child support office to review your case for a modification, you will need to provide the information requested by the agency, such as:
- Child care expenses
- Child support obligations for other children
- Disability verification
- Income and expenses
- Jail or prison status
- Medical and dental insurance verification
- Non-join children
- Retirement income
- Tax returns
- Unemployment benefits