How is the basic child support amount calculated in Minnesota?

Basic child support is calculated based on the combined gross income of both parents and is allocated based on each parent’s proportionate share of the combined parental income for child support. Minn. Stat. § 518A.34. The parents must provide documentation of earnings and income at the time they file their initial pleadings or motion documents. Minn. Stat. § 518A.28.

A parent’s gross monthly income includes any form of periodic payment including wages, worker’s compensation benefits, unemployment benefits, military payments, pensions, disability benefits, self-employment income, and Social Security benefits for the parent and for the child if based on the parent’s eligibility. Gross income is calculated before any deductions for taxes, employment benefits, or retirement plans. Gross income does not include child support received, public assistance received, or the parent’s current spouse’s income. Court-ordered spousal maintenance obligations are deducted from monthly gross income. Minn. Stat. § 518A.29.

The obligor is allowed a parenting expense adjustment based on the percentage of parenting time established by court order. If parenting time for the obligor and obligee is equal and parental incomes for child support are equal, no basic support will be ordered unless the court finds the expenses for the child are not equally shared. If the parenting times are equal, but the parents have different incomes, the parent with the greater income will pay basic support to the other parent. Minn. Stat. §§ 518A.34 and 518A.36.

The parents’ monthly incomes after adjustments are then added together to determine the combined parental income for child support (PICS). A combined basic support amount is determined by applying the combined PICS amount and the number of joint children to the guideline child support chart in the statutes. The chart provides the presumptive amount of combined basic support the parents should pay. Minn. Stat. §§ 518A.34 and 518A.35.

The guideline amount is then split proportionately between the parents based on their proportionate share of the combined PICS. The obligor’s proportionate share of the combined basic support amount is the amount of basic support the obligor will be ordered to pay. Minn. Stat. § 518A.34.

After determining the support amount under the statutory guidelines, the court may look at several statutory criteria that allow a departure from that amount. These criteria, commonly known as “deviation factors,” include:

  • the earnings, income, and resources of both parents,
  • the extraordinary financial needs and resources and the physical and emotional condition of the child,
  • the child’s living standard if the parents were living together, but recognizing the new existence of two households,
  • whether the child has resided in a foreign country for more than one year that has a substantially higher or lower cost of living than this country,
  • who gets the dependent income tax exemption,
  • the parents’ debts, and the obligor’s total payments for court-ordered child support.

Minn. Stat. § 518A.43, subd. 1.

Because of these factors for deviating from the guidelines, individuals with the same net income and number of children may be ordered to pay different amounts of child support. In any departure from the guidelines, the court must make specific findings as to the reason and why it is in the best interests of the child to deviate from the guidelines. Minn. Stat. § 518A.37, subd. 2.

In the case of low-income obligors, there is a self-support adjustment allowed that is equal to 120 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for one person. If the obligor’s gross income is less than 120 percent of the federal poverty guidelines for one person, a minimum support amount applies. A minimum support order is $50 for one or two children, $75 for three or four children, and $100 for five or more children. The allowance for a self-support adjustment does not apply to an obligor who is incarcerated. Minn. Stat. §518A.42.

This post is part of a series of posts on Calculating Child Support in Minnesota.

This material and the material in the following posts has been copied from Minnesota’s Child Support Laws, An Overview, drafted by the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department’s legislative analyst, Lrnn Aves.

This post is part of a series of posts on Calculating Child Support in Minnesota.

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