Basics of calculating child support payments.

Under Minnesota law, both parents are obligated to support their children in accordance with their respective incomes. The state calculates child support according to what's called an "Income shares" model. Minnesota child support has three components: basic support, medical support, and child care support.

Basic support is just what it sounds like: expenses related to care, housing, food, clothing, and transportation for the child. Medical support involves providing medical and dental insurance, including making payments toward the cost of insurance provided by the other parent, and payment for medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance. Child care support is payment for daycare when parents work or or attend school.

How the Income Shares Model Works

Unless you and your spouse have agreed on an amount of support and the court has approved it, basic support is calculated using the combined monthly parental income for determining child support (PICS) and the number of joint children to be supported, according to the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines.

Regardless of how physical custody is shared between the parties, each parent is considered to have an obligation to support their minor children. The legislature has established child support guidelines that bases each party's share of support on the amount of time that each parent has the children. Here's how it works in practice:

  • Each parent's gross income is added together to create the PICS. Gross income is before there are any deductions for federal and state income tax; deductions for Social Security; pension plan; union dues; or cost of health insurance/hospitalization coverage. The calculator does make a separate deduction for any court-ordered child support or spousal maintenance that is being currently paid for non-joint children or ex-spouses before determining each party's PICS. If a parent is self-employed, the calculator uses their adjusted gross income which is gross revenues minus necessary and ordinary business expenses.
  • Basic child support is determined based on PICS and the number of children to be supported. For instance, if PICS is $6,000, and there are three children, basic child support is $1,604 per month. (The legislature set up the dollar amounts that are used.)
  • Each parent is assigned a percentage of the child support payment based on the percentage of total PICS each earns.
  • Adjustments are made to child support based on the amount of time each parent spends with the children. If a parent has the children for at least 10.1% of the time, their child support obligation is reduced by 12%. This is in recognition of the additional costs that a parent has even if their time is limited to every other weekend. If a parent has the children between 45.1% and 50% of the time, parenting time is presumed to be equal.
  • If both parental incomes and parenting time are equal, no child support will be paid. If parenting time is equal, but there is a disparity between the parents' incomes, the combined basic support amount is multiplied by 0.75. The resulting amount is apportioned between the parents based on the share of the combined PICS each parent earns. The lower amount is subtracted from the higher amount, and the difference is paid to the lower-earning parent by the higher-earning one. (If you think this is complicated, don't worry. The online calculator mentioned below does the work and gives you the answer.)

Using the Minnesota Child Support Calculator

Minnesota offers an online Child Support Calculator so that parents can find out what their child support obligations will be. In order to successfully use the calculator, you will need to know each parent's gross monthly income; how many children live in each parent's home, excluding those for whom the parent already has an order to pay support; any existing child support or spousal maintenance orders for either parent; any Social Security or Veteran's Administration benefits paid to a joint child due to one parent's disability or retirement; the monthly cost of both medical and dental coverage; and the monthly amount of child care expense. Of course, the percentage of parenting time awarded by the court is also needed for these calculations.

Just because Minnesota child support is determined by formula, does not mean the calculation is a simple one. The award that comes out of a calculation is only as good as the information that goes in, and seemingly small details can have a large impact on a child support award. To be certain that your child support payment is calculated in a way that is fair to both your children and you, get the help of an experienced Minnesota child support attorney. Please contact us at Mundahl Law with any questions you have about how Minnesota child support calculations will affect your family. We look forward to working with you.