Getting a Child Support Order

Definition of Child Support

The term "child support", means the total support obligation, which includes amounts for basic support, medical support, and child care support. The court must address all three types of support, but may reserve rather than order all or any of the three. In some situations, support orders may also determine past support for up to two years.

Basic Support

Basic support is money ordered for a child's housing, food, clothing, transportation, and education expenses.

Determining the Amount of Basic Support

When determining the amount of basic support, the court is to set the amount owed in a specific dollar figure based on a formula that uses both parents' incomes to determine each parent's share of the cost of raising their child or children. These costs are determined with a Basic Support Guidelines Table. The basic support table figures are based on the approximate costs of raising children. Each parent's monthly gross income is reduced by the amount of spousal maintenance and/or child support that parent is court-ordered to pay for other families. The new formula also grants deductions from a parent's monthly gross income for non-joint children in their home.

Next, formula applies the parents' combined parental income for determining child support, known as Parental Income for Child Support (PICS), to the basic support table to determine the parents' combined basic support obligation.

If there is court-ordered parenting time, the obligor may receive a deduction from basic support depending on the amount of court ordered parenting time granted. The amount of the deduction is based on the percentage of court ordered parenting time. The obligor receives the deduction if parenting time is 10 percent or more.

Basic Support Calculation Example:
Jamie and Pat have two children. Pat has physical custody of both of the children. Jamie's monthly Parental Income for Child Support (PICS) is $2,000, Pat's PICS and their combined PICS is $5,000. According to the guidelines formula, parents with combined PICS of $5000 with two children would together pay $1,260 in basic support. Jamie has 40 percent of the combined PICS, so Jamie's share of the basic support obligation would be 40% of $1,260, or $504. Pat has 60 percent of the combined PICS, so Pat's share of the basic support obligation would be 60 percent of $1,260, or $756. Jamie's basic support obligation of $504 would be court ordered to Pat. Since the children reside with Pat, Pat's share of the children's support is assumed paid.

The court can order more or less basic support than the guidelines, if he / she finds there are reasons that a lesser or greater amount of support would be in the best interest of the child(ren). The Minnesota Department of Human Services website has a calculator and instructions to help estimate child support.

Automatic Changes to Basic Support

Basic support may automatically change due to Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). Minnesota is one of several states' that has a Cost of Living Adjustment for child support orders. The amount of basic ordered is to be adjusted every two years based on changes in the consumer price index, or cost of living.

For cases where the parents use the services of the child support office, the COLA adjustment becomes effective on the first of May of the year in which it is made. 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 person who pays basic support and becomes effective automatically unless a hearing is requested.

Court-Ordered Increases or Decreases
Sometimes a court order might build in an automatic increase or decrease of the basic support amount. An example of this is a reduction upon the emancipation of the oldest child.

Six-Month Review
The court will attach a request for a six-month review hearing form to:
  • Court orders for marital dissolution and legal separation
  • Court orders that initially establish child custody, parenting time, or child support
If either parent submits a written request for a hearing within six months of the court's entry of one of these types of court orders, the court must hold a review hearing.

At the hearing, the court decides whether child support is current and whether both parents are following the ordered parenting time schedule. If either parent asks, the Washington County child support office must give child support payment information to the parents and to the court. A parent must make a written request for payment information at least 14 days before the hearing.

Determining Child Care Support

Parents share the responsibility and cost of their children's work-related or education-related child care expenses based on their proportionate share of combined PICS.

Determining Health Care Coverage

The court must decide issues relating to health care coverage, for medical and dental, and who should carry the coverage. The court must evaluate the health plans available to parents, considering the following criteria:
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Special medical needs of the child
Under the new law, parents share the responsibility and cost for meeting their children's health care needs based on their proportionate share of combined PICS. If neither parent has appropriate health care coverage, and the child doesn't receive public coverage in the form of Medical Assistance or MinnesotaCare the court must order the parents to share toward the actual health care costs. If the child receives public coverage, the court may order the obligor to contribute to the cost of public coverage.

In addition to determining health care coverage and how those costs should be shared, the court must allocate the cost of unreimbursed and uninsured medical and dental expenses between the parents based on their share of combined PICS.

It is possible that the parent with primary physical custody of the child / children will owe medical support under the new law. If one parent owes basic support and the other owes a contribution to health care coverage premiums, the obligations will be offset by the child support office in the enforcement of the court order.

Establishing an Order

The court establishes child support orders. The child support office or a parent may ask the court to issue a support order. The support order may be part of a temporary, permanent, or modified court order in:
  • Child custody
  • Child support action
  • Divorce
  • Domestic abuse protection order
  • Legal separation
  • Paternity
The court generally orders the parent not living with the child / children to pay support for the child / children to the other parent.