Hey – Don’t I Get a Raise?

If you were awarded either child support or spousal maintenance in your judgment and decree, or another support order, under Minnesota law you may be entitled to receive a cost-of-living increase two years after the judgment and decree (or other support order) was entered and every two years thereafter. How does this work, you might ask?

A cost-of-living increase is based on the Consumer Price Index for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area or another cost-of-living index that is published by the Department of Labor. Using the Consumer Price Index for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area is generally preferred.  The intent of a cost-of-living increase is to maintain the proper level of support as consumer prices increase.  Some might call it a “raise,” while others just say the increase in support is simply keeping up with inflation.

Warning (flashing red lights)Unless your child support and/or spousal maintenance is being collected by Support and Collections (who may calculate the cost-of-living increase on your behalf), it is your obligation to take the necessary steps to receive a cost-of-living increase.  In other words, a cost-of-living increase is not automatically implemented every two years. You should have no expectation that a cost-of-living will be implemented unless you make it happen.

I should probably tell you how to do it, right? The process is actually fairly easy. All you need to know is included in the Guide to Child Support and Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments brochure at the Office on the Economic Status of Women’s website at http://www.oesw.leg.mn/cola/COLAPacketrev092014.pdf.  As explained in the brochure, you need to complete a cost-of-living adjustment form worksheet and a letter of notification.  Both of these forms must be given to the obligor (the person paying the support) no less than 20 days before the cost-of-living goes into effect.  Please note, if you are mailing the forms, make sure to place the packet in the mail 23 days in advance of the date of the cost-of-living increase will go into effect.  Of course, you can always retain an attorney who would be more than happy to help you navigate your way through this process.

As previously stated, the letter of notification along with the cost-of-living adjustment form worksheet needs to be sent to the obligor’s last known mailing address at least 20 days before the cost-of-living increase is to become effective. The 20 day requirement allows the obligor to contest the cost-of-living increase.  If the obligor does not contest, the cost-of-living increase automatically goes into effect.

Now hold on – what do you mean that the obligor can object?! The obligor may not be required to pay a cost-of-living increase if their income has not increased.  If their income has not increased, then they are allowed to contest the increase.  The argument is if the obligor’s income did not increase, then why should your support increase? The instructions and forms with regard to contesting a cost-of-living increase can be found at the Minnesota Judicial Branch website at http://www.mncourts.gov/GetForms.aspx?cat=Child+Support.

But wait – what if you did not realize you were entitled to receive a cost-of-living adjustment? Is it too late for you to seek the increase if it has been over two years?  The answer is, “NO!”  Even if you only have one year left to receive either child support or spousal maintenance, you can still request a cost-of-living adjustment.

Remember, you can go through this same process every two years until your support award ends.