When married couples with children divorce or obtain a legal separation, the court has the authority and an obligation to order child support. It is public policy in Minnesota that both parents shall be liable for the financial responsibilities of raising a child. As such, a support order is issued to compel a noncustodial parent to support the custodial parent in raising the child. The parent who is ordered to pay support is called the obligor. The parent who receives such support is called the obligee.
Child Support Generally
Under Minnesota law, child support is comprised of three separate elements:
Basic support — Support for the general care, support and education of a child
Medical support — Contributions to provide basic health care for the child or to reimburse a parent for monthly health care premium payments
Child care support — Payments made to share in work or educational child care costs, such as day care or after-school care
Child support is determined by combining each parent's gross monthly income. Gross income includes compensation from regular employment, military pensions, unemployment compensation and Social Security benefits based on the parent's eligibility. For the purposes of calculating child support, spousal maintenance paid from one party to the other is deducted from the gross income of the obligor and included in the gross income of the obligee.
Gross income does not include child support or public assistance. Moreover, it does not include income from a parent's current spouse or romantic partner. However, the court considers each parent's responsibilities for nonjoint children who live in their home, as well as other court-ordered support obligations for such children.
After all adjustments are made, the support amount is assessed based on each parent's proportionate share of the combined income for child support, commonly referred to as PICS (the parental income available for child support), as it applies to the statutory guidelines. For example, if a couple has a combined gross monthly income of $5,000, and the obligor earns $3,200 compared to the obligee who earns $1,800, the obligor will be ordered to pay 64 percent of the statutory amount for child support based on the parties' combined income level.
What About When A Parent Remarries?
While spousal maintenance payments cease once a parent remarries, this does not generally apply to child support payments. As stated before, the state has a vested interest in ensuring that both parents be financially responsible for raising their child. As such, remarriage does not absolve a parent of financial duty. However, it may mark a change in circumstances that may justify modification of a support order.
Minnesota law allows for support modifications if an obligee experiences substantial changes in income or living costs or need for support. Child support modifications are intensively fact-specific. An experienced family law attorney can advise you of your rights and options.