A common question in the minds of parents as they consider their options in a divorce, separation, or custody matter is the amount of child support they may receive or pay. It is a difficult question to answer because there is no rule of thumb. Minnesota utilizes a complicated calculation method. This article provides a few tips and examples on estimating the amount of child support in your case. But keep in mind: child support calculations can be complicated, and making one small change to the input data can result in large variations in the child support obligation. Some of the inputs are not obvious, and it’s important that you contact an attorney for help, so that you receive an accurate calculation.
How Minnesota Child Support Works
Child support in Minnesota is not an arbitrary number set by a Judge or Magistrate; there is a specific method of calculating that promotes consistency. The method includes inputting various data like the number of children, the income of the parties, the amount of parenting time awarded to the parties, etc. After these inputs are complete, the calculator generates an obligation amount. Although rare, courts occasionally depart from the calculated amount for reasons such as extraordinary financial needs of the children and resources of the parents; the physical and emotional condition of the children; or large disparities in the incomes of the parties, the parties’ debts, assets, or expenses, etc.
Overview Of The Calculation Method
- The parties’ monthly incomes are calculated.
- Income is adjusted by certain factors, and the result is the “Parental Income for Determining Child Support” or “PICS.”
- The PICS amount and the number of joint children determine the total monthly child support obligation for both parties.
- The obligation is apportioned to each party by percentage.
- The noncustodial parent’s obligation is adjusted for certain factors, and the final obligation is determined.
For instance, Jill has the children for the majority of the time (say, 70% of the year) and earns $2,000 per month, while Jack earns $4,000. In this case, the PICS amount is $6,000. The obligation for one child with PICS of $6,000 is $895 per month (there is a large matrix in the MN child support laws which provides an obligation amount for every combination of the number of children and PICS amount). Jack is apportioned 67% of the obligation, which is $600 per month. Jack gets a 12% reduction for the amount of parenting time he is granted (per MN statute, a noncustodial parent’s obligation is reduced by 12% when he/she exercises between 10% and 45% parenting time during a year) so his obligation is $512 per month.
Estimating Your Basic Child Support Amount
To approximate the amount of child support in your case, do the following:
1. Add both parties’ monthly incomes together (gross income, before deductions).
Example: Jack earns $3,000/month and Jill earns $1,500/month = $4,500 combined monthly income.
2. Open this link. The total child support obligation is the number at the cross-section of total monthly income (from Step 1 above) in the left column of the matrix, and the number of joint children in the top row of the matrix.
Example: Combined income of $4,500 with two children = $1,184 total child support obligation.
3. Whichever parent has/will have physical custody of the children for the lesser amount of time during a given year, multiply that parent’s percentage of the combined income (his/her income divided by the parties’ total combined income) by the total child support obligation.
Example: Jack will have the kids the minority of the year, his percentage of the income is 67% ($3,000 / $4,500), therefore Jack’s obligation is .67 x $1,184 = $793 per month.
4. Finally, reduce the child support by 12% if the obligor parent will have custody of the children between 10% – 45% of the year.
Example: Jack will have the children during each summer, so his obligation is reduced to $698 per month ($793 x .88).
Remember, this is only an approximate estimation of what a child support obligation might be. There are many factors which can significantly alter the obligation, and the application of each factor to your calculation may hinge on the court’s application/interpretation of statutory or case law to your case.
Running Your Own Calculation
To get a more exact calculation of child support, run your own calculation by doing the following:
- Open the Minnesota Child Support Calculator
- Enter the parties’ names (“Parent A” must be the parent who will have the child for a smaller amount of time during the year than the other parent).
- Enter the number of joint children.
- Enter each party’s income. Income is usually straightforward if both parties work full time, salaried jobs, with little, or no, variation in wages year-to-year, and no other sources of income apply (Social Security benefits, trust income, etc.). The income amount is the gross income of each party (income before deductions, such as federal tax withholding, etc.)
- Enter the other information if relevant (spousal support payments, non-joint children living with each parent, etc.)
- Enter the amount of parenting time Parent A will be awarded (there are only three categories: less than 10% of the year, between 10% and 45%, or between 45.1% and 50%)
- Include child care cost and medical assistance information if relevant.
- Click “Calculate.” You’ll be taken to a screen with a breakdown of the calculation. Scroll down to number 16; this amount is the monthly child support obligation (for the parent in whose column the amount is contained).
If you need assistance with calculating child support, have overpaid on child support, or other support-related issues, please call 701-297-2890 or send us an email below.
The information contained in this article and on this website is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to your particular set of facts.