Child support is a difficult issue. Everyone has an opinion about it. And while many things in family court are open to debate, this one is not: The Judge Will Order the Noncustodial Parent to Pay Child Support to the Custodial Parent.
But, that’s hardly the end of the discussion. How child support works, how much it costs, and what happens if you don’t pay matter just as much as whether it is ordered.
From our experience representing people in family court, here are the Top 5 things you need to know:
1. What Do They Mean When They Say Child Support? It depends on who you’re talking to. Technically, the phrase “child support” includes three things:
- Basic Support — think cash payment;
- Child Care Support — think daycare costs; and
- Medical Support — think health insurance coverage
More commonly, though, when people say “child support” they are referring to Basic Support. Don’t assume that they don’t care about the other forms of support. They are probably just using the term as a kind of short-hand.
2. How Basic Support is Determined? This is an oversimplified explanation, but it will get us started. Basic child support is based on the gross monthly income of both parents – the PICS (“Parental Income for Child Support”). We add the PICS numbers together and then look to a formula developed by the legislature to tell us how much money the parents, as a team, owe to their children. We then divide this total amount between the parents based on their percentage of income and the amount of time they spend with the kids.
3. Where Do They Get The Formula? The Judge gets the formula from the Minnesota State Legislature and the Legislature gets the formula from the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”).
Every year, the USDA researches and publishes a report on the cost of raising a child in the United States. The Minnesota Legislature determines whether it agrees with the figures and adjusts them accordingly.
The Minnesota Legislature is the place to complain if you don’t like the numbers.
4. What Happens If You Don’t Pay? You could go to Jail. Seriously. Things have changed a lot in the last fifteen years. If you don’t pay your child support, the County Attorney’s Office can suspend your driver’s license or occupational license. They can seize your property. And, if you still refuse to pay, they can revoke your passport or put you in jail.
We have dealt with this issue many times. Judges have little sympathy for people won’t pay their child support. Your obligation to support your children comes first.
5. What Happens if I Lose My Job and I Can’t Pay? Contrary to popular belief, losing your job does not change or suspend your child support obligation. You are required to keep making the same monthly payments until a judge orders otherwise.
We have had clients accumulate thousands of dollars in debt in just a few months. And the law is VERY CLEAR, you cannot retroactively modify your child support. The Judge doesn’t have the power to eliminate the past support you owe, no matter how unfair it may seem.
To avoid this problem, if you lose your job, you need to immediately file a motion to modify child support.
If you appreciate our efforts to keep our clients informed and would like to have us represent you in your case, please contact us by telephone at (952) 345-8004, or fill out the contact form on the side of the page.