For Minnesota parents who are separated or divorced, child support is one of the key issues they need to think about. Regardless of whether it was a married couple, a non-traditional family or there were unusual circumstances, having a firm grasp of the law is crucial. The child’s best interests take precedence.
Legal aspects of a child support determination
There are three types of child support: basic support, medical support and childcare support. Basic support is expected to cover the fundamental needs, including a place to live, food, clothes, educational expenses, transportation, and other associated costs. Medical support includes the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for medical, dental, vision, mental health, and other similar expenses, but it does not include over-the-counter medications. Childcare is for daycare expenses while a parent is working or in school.
Minnesota considers both parents’ gross incomes and each parent’s respective percentage share of the total combined incomes. This is commonly referred to as “PICS” (Parental Income for Child Support). There are statutory guidelines that set the level of basic support based on the parents’ combined incomes and the number of joint children. Parents are expected to contribute their respective PICS percentages towards their children’s basic needs. The obligor (Parent A) is the parent who either has less parenting time or who has a higher income if the parties have equal parenting time. The obligor will pay child support to the other parent (Parent B). The obligor’s child support obligation will be adjusted downward based on the amount of court-ordered parenting time that parent has.
Each parent is also expected to pay their respective PICS percentage of the children’s portion of the insurance premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, and childcare expenses. The amount of parenting time each parent has does not impact medical or childcare support; those are based solely on incomes. For medical support, the obligor is the parent who does not pay the insurance premiums. For childcare support, the obligor is the parent who does not pay the provider directly. If Parent A provides the health insurance or pays the childcare expenses, Parent B would owe support to Parent A. In this situation, Parent A’s basic support obligation would be offset by Parent B’s medical and childcare support obligations.
Determining parents’ gross incomes is relatively simple when they receive a flat salary or hourly wage. Things become more difficult when a parent works fewer than 40 hours per week, is seasonally employed, unemployed or underemployed; receives overtime, shift differential, bonuses, commissions, or stock compensation; is self-employed; or has trust, investment, retirement, disability, or military income.
The court has broad discretion when determining a parent’s income and may also deviate from the presumptive statutory guidelines if good reasons exist. When there are allegations that a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it may be necessary to retain a vocational evaluator or other experts to assist the court in determining a parent’s earning potential.
Child support cases may require experienced guidance
Child support can be complicated and difficult regardless of whether the parents are on good terms. The experienced attorneys at Krueger, Juelich & Schmisek PLLC can help you with your family’s unique circumstances.