What Determines The Amount of Child Support

Why Child Support Is So Important

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 44% of custodial parents receive the full amount of child support. 

Child support is typically a tough topic for conversation. Given that child support laws are not the same in every state, they can be confusing, complicated, and contentious. Even though the child support laws are fairly straight forward in Minnesota, finding the right local family law firm that specializes in child support is always recommended, as they’ll be able to help you navigate the process. Not only does local family law firm, M. Sue Wilson Law Offices, P.A. have a deep understanding of Minnesota child support laws, but they can also help navigate the intricacies of the process.  

The Basics of Child Support 

In its most basic form, child support is money paid by one parent to another to provide financial support for one or more children. While this may seem like a fairly simple explanation, it doesn’t take long to see the pitfalls of this area of family law.  

Purpose of Child Support

The foundation and goal of child support are to divide the costs associated with raising a child or children between the parents.  Unless the parents agree on a different arrangement, child support is usually paid in the form of regular payments by one parent to the other to help support the child’s basic needs.  

For now, it’s important that child support is for the child.  

Traditionally, child support was paid by the non-custodial parent. That is, whichever parent does not have physical custody of the child or has primary custody of the child most of the time. While some states may still follow this model, the definitions of legal and physical custody do not have any effect on the amount of child support a person will be obligated to pay in Minnesota.  

In Minnesota, child support is calculated based on the parenting time schedule.  A parenting time schedule is just how it sounds – who takes care of the child on any given day.  Either parents or a court will determine a schedule that the parents and the child will follow. Typically, child support is then calculated based on the number of overnights each parent has with the child.  Accordingly, if one parent has less parenting time than the other parent, the parent with a lesser amount of parenting time will pay child support to the parent with more parenting time. If both parents have an equal amount of parenting time with the children, then the parent who earns more income will pay child support to the parent who earns less income.  

What Determines The Amount of Child Support? 

If you’re interested in determining how much you may owe or be owed — Minnesota’s Department of Human Services offers a handy child support calculator. This calculator will determine what is owed under the child support guidelines of Minnesota.  Parties are free to agree to a higher amount or a lower amount, but the calculator will inform them of the statutory obligation based on a number of factors.   

Possible Issues That Can Arise. 

For instance, what happens if a parent is unable to pay what they owe? You’ll need to file for a child support modification. If a party is receiving or looking to receive public assistance, this will have an impact on a child support obligation.  If the child is receiving public assistance, this too will have an impact on the child support obligation. Often if the child’s primary parent is receiving public assistance for the benefit of the child, the County Attorney may get involved on behalf of the State receiving assistance to seek child support payments. The County Attorney may request, and the court may require, that the other parent obtain employment to help cover costs associated with the child on public assistance.   

What Does Child Support Cover? 

As mentioned above, the child is the most important factor when it comes to payment.  Any and all money that falls under the umbrella of child support is intended for the care and well-being of the child involved.  

It is not for the parent’s own expenses. That being said, there are certain expenses that pertain to both the child and parent. One example of this could be providing adequate shelter, and another may be food. Below are some examples of what could be considered “basic needs” — although these may differ from state to state. 

Shelter — which refers to the child’s primary home. This includes mortgage, rent and/or utilities that may be involved to provide a safe living environment. 

Food — a basic necessity of all human life and an obvious candidate for appropriate child support spending. 

Clothing –  this would include clothing and shoes for the child, including appropriate weather-related clothing items (e.g. coat, hat, gloves, and boots for a child that lives in Minnesota).

School — there are some necessities that come with schooling such as supplies, books, clothing, and other related costs. 

In Minnesota, basic child support does not include monetary contributions for child care expenses, medical expenses or dental expenses.  Accordingly, those are additional expenses that a parent paying child support may be required to contribution to. Each parent’s contribution to these expenses are based on parental income for determining child support (“PICS”) percentage.  

In addition, extracurricular activities may be required to be covered by child support. These may also be spelled out in an agreement depending on existing after-school expenses. Misuse of funds essentially includes anything that doesn’t contribute to the well-being and betterment of the child. Any leftover money at the end of the month should be saved for possible future needs or expenses of the child. 

If there is any worry about misuse, it’s important that spending is defined in the parent’s agreement. It’s important that both parties understand their role and responsibilities. The more transparency and communication there is, the better parents will be able to handle unexpected expenses that may arise in the future.