So Here’s the Skinny on MN Child Support
Minnesota’s longstanding child support guidelines have undergone several major changes in the past few decades. The original guidelines were quite complex and received negative criticism as it was perceived to be unfair. Minnesota passed the first state-wide child support guidelines in the country in 1983 where calculations were based on the percentage of the obligor’s net income (except income shares for child care and medical). Now even though this is just the basics, these standard guidelines existed for nearly 20 years with having only one major adjustment.
In 2005, the Income Shares Guidelines were enacted and they took effect in 2007. According to its authors, the guideline was based on the data on the costs of raising children, allowed additional deductions, considered nonjoint children, had a greater focus on medical support for children which all presumably gave a more accurate calculation of Child Care Support.
The PEA Factor
One of the components of the child support formula is what is called the “parenting expense adjustment” or “PEA.” The premise behind the PEA is to recognize that noncustodial parents spend money on their child(ren) during their parenting time as well. If a parent has their child(ren) for fewer then 10% of the overnights, that parent does not qualify for a PEA. But, if they have their child(ren) between 10% and 45% of the overnights, they are entitled to a 12% offset from the child support obligation. Parenting time of more than 45% is presumed to be equal, and a different analysis is used for these parents.
Following the criticism of the current PEA formula results in a substantial change in child support at 45.1% of parenting time – commonly called the child support “cliff”. The cliff lead to legal battles over very small changes in parenting time. It also inadequately addressed the increased childrelated
costs that came with increased parenting time.
In other words…
The problem with this format is that parents who have only 11% of the overnights get the same offset as parents who have 45% of the overnights. Also, there can be significant disparities between child support obligations when a parent goes from 45% to 46% of the overnights. These disparities have come to be known as “child support cliffs.” Parents argue about relatively minor differences in parenting time schedules because of the significant impact it could have on the child support obligation.
Assume the father and the mother make $10,000 per month. He earns 60 percent and she earns 40 percent. He is responsible for 60 percent of the child support obligation, and she’s responsible for 40 percent. That seems easy enough, right? Hold on, not quite. We’re just scratching the surface here.
The judge can vary the amount based on several factors, including the PEA I’ve just mentioned. There are three adjustment categories based on parenting time: less than 10 percent overnights, 11 percent to 45 percent, and 45.1 percent to 50 percent.
In this example, the father would pay $1,093 a month if he is in the second category but only $310 a month if he’s in the third category. That’s a significant difference. What then do you think they might fight over? Those two or three overnight visits a year! That difference also means over $9,000 a year ($783 a month). These disputes are especially prolonged since most Minnesota divorce decrees are quite vague in this area.
The PEA (Parenting Expense Adjustment) is one of the most litigated issues in Minnesota child support matters. On August 1, it changes significantly.
A statewide task force, along with Senator Tom Neuville (now Judge), examined this problem for over a year, created a more equitable system and finally published a decision in February 2018. The goals of the “new” guidelines as they articulate, create a more flexible and simple system, recognize the cost associated with parenting time and nonjoint children, recognize the reality of low income obligors and to encourage deviations where appropriate.
Keep the income shares model, but get rid of the current PEA structure. Instead of the sharp cutoffs in the current system, there is a much more complex formula which could potentially eliminate boxing matches over one or two weekends a year. By removing the 3-teired system, child support now takes into consideration the number of court ordered overnights the parents have with the children. While this may not seem like a big change, it is for most parents. Most divorce Decrees and court Orders do not assign parents a specific number of overnights on a monthly or yearly basis. As a result, it may be necessary in some cases to have to return to family court to determine those specific number of overnights to best calculate child support. Also effective August 1, 2018, parents with more than 55 percent of the parenting time never have to pay child support. Now that in itself is a HUGE change from the current model, which still requires a parent with a majority of parenting time pay child support in certain circumstances.
Want to see your child support calculations based on the new changes effective August 1, 2018?
Click HERE to be directed to the Minnesota Department of Human Resources Child Support Calculator.
Understand, there are still some issues that are not quite answered that need to be worked out. In the meantime, those who are receiving or paying child support should be aware of the major changes that are taking place over the next couple of years. People who are going through a divorce right now need to be especially mindful of these changes. If you had one figure in mind when the case began, that figure could be a lot different once the case is finalized.
If you have an existing child support order, a new law does not constitute changed circumstances. So, you cannot base a motion to modify simply on the PEA calculations. However, if you alter the number of overnights, the child support obligation could change significantly as well. There needs to be some other reason to bring the motion to modify child support other than the changed law.
If you believe these new changes may affect you or you have questions concerning child support, contact our office for more information. We’ll be happy to answer your questions.
If you would like to learn about mediation and how it can help with child support contested issues, child custody and parenting time, call Integrous Resolution Services, TODAY at (612) 930-1423.
In a nutshell… the new MN Child Support calculations are going in effect on August 1, 2018:
- Replaces 3-tiered PEA system for all new orders
- Eliminates the “cliff” at 45.1% parenting time, and replaces it with a “curve” or “slope”
- Calculates the PEA based on a parenting time order
- Parenting time order must have an overnight by overnight calculation
- Parents with more than 55 percent of the parenting time never have to pay child support.
- Calculation is an average of two years
Click HERE for FAQ’s on the new MN Child Support changes effective August 1, 2018
Links to explore: