By: Senior Associate Attorney, Kendal K O’Keefe

On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, some significant changes in Minnesota’s child support laws took effect, and these changes could have a big impact on the amount of child support parents are paying and receiving. One of these changes deals with the amount of income that can be imputed to unemployed or underemployed parents for purposes of calculating child support. For more information regarding imputation of income in child support cases generally, see our recent blog post on the topic.

Prior to March 1st, 2016, the law presumed that all parents could be employed forty hours per week earning 150% of the state or federal minimum wage (whichever was higher). In Minnesota, there are two different minimum wages: $7.25 per hour for small employers, and $9.00 per hour for large employers. An argument can be made on the basis of either minimum wage figure depending upon the circumstances; however, the Courts generally use the higher minimum wage of $9.00 per hour.  Prior to the change in the law, this calculation resulted in imputed gross income of $2,340 per month ($13.50 per hour x 40 hours per week) to unemployed or underemployed parents.

Under the new law that took effect March 1, 2016, it is now presumed that all parents can be employed thirty hours per week earning 100% of the state or federal minimum wage. This results in imputed monthly gross income of $1,170 per month ($9.00 per hour x 30 hours per week), which is one-half of the amount of income that could be imputed under the old law. This change is significant and may be grounds for a modification of child support in some circumstances.

Another big change in Minnesota’ child support laws relates to the circumstances in which a deviation of child support is appropriate. Generally, the amount of child support an individual is ordered to pay is based upon guidelines that take the parents’ incomes and the amount of parenting time that each parent has with the child into account; however, parties can request that the Court deviate from these guidelines when extenuating circumstances exist. These circumstances can include the extraordinary financial, physical and educational needs of the child to be supported, among other things. For a full list of factors that the Court considers in determining whether a child support deviation is appropriate, see https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=518a.43.

Effective March 1, 2016, in addition to the other considerations set forth in Minnesota Statute 518A.43, the Court can now deviate from the child support guidelines and order that a parent pay no basic child support where such a significant income disparity exists between the parents that an order for basic support would be detrimental to the parents’ child.

As a result of these changes, many parents may now be overpaying or underpaying child support. Contact Arnold, Rodman & Kretchmer PLLC today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how these changes in the law may affect you.

Kendal Okeefe

Senior Associate Attorney, Kendal K O’Keefe