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When Should Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys Change Child Support Orders?

by | Sep 22, 2019 | Child Support, Family Law, Firm News

The Minnesota Attorney General oversees child support obligations in this state. That oversight typically includes an administrative review. Periodically, usually once every three years, the Attorney General allows either parent to request a child support adjustment.

Many parents believe the administrative review process is better than a legal modification. But that’s not usually the case. Administrative reviews often take many months. Furthermore, neither parent has a legal advocate in this process. The Attorney General represents the state, and not the obligee (person receiving child support).

So, it is typically best to partner with a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney and legally modify the divorce paperwork. Both parents can have their own legal advocates. Furthermore, if you request more support, you get it sooner. Additionally, if you request a reduction, these orders are usually not retroactive. So, you receive no credit for the money you overpaid.

Income Adjustment

Minnesota is an income-share state, so the income of the obligor (person paying support) is not the only factor used to determine the amount. Nevertheless, income changes are by far the most common grounds for child support increase or decrease.

A McLeod County family law judge will change the amount if the obligor’s net income is substantially different. Minnesota law presumes that a $75 monthly difference is a substantial change. The judge may adjust the amount in other circumstances as well, but a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney must produce additional evidence of substantial change.

There are some other requirements as well. In addition to a substantial change, the party requesting modification must prove that the income change was:

  • Involuntary: People cannot quit their jobs to reduce or eliminate their domestic financial obligations. To prove lack of involuntariness, Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys can use evidence like social media posts complaining about high child support amounts.
  • Permanent: This element sometimes comes up if the obligor is self-employed. Business income often fluctuates wildly, especially if the obligor’s business is seasonal. The person requesting modification must convince the judge that the change is permanent, or at least long-lasting, and not just part of the business cycle. If a farmer buys new land to raise more crops, the income change is permanent. But if the obligee times the filing to occur during harvest, the change is not permanent.
  • Unexpected: Job changes, salary reviews, and promotions or demotions are all unexpected changes. Retirement, however, is usually not an unexpected change. This factor is especially important with regard to expense adjustments, as outlined below.

Typically, the party requesting modification must establish all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

People who have children can probably testify that young children are very expensive to raise, chiefly because of daycare costs. When children enter school, the associated expenses usually decrease. Then, the older they get, the more expenses increase.

These are all anticipated change which, for the most part, will not support a motion to modify child support in McLeod County. Daycare expenses are the major exception, as these costs are part of the aforementioned income-share calculation, at least in many cases.

Instead, the direct expense change must be related to the child’s needs and something which was not anticipated at the time the previous orders were entered. For example, some children develop chronic illnesses that require costly medical care, or they fall behind in school and require educational support. Things like these are clearly unanticipated.

As discussed above, the change must be permanent. If a child is struggling in a particular subject or breaks a leg, there may be increased expenses, but the increase is temporary. On a related note, there is often a difference between the child’s needs and the child’s wants, or the parent’s wants.

Indirect Expense Alteration

Not all expenses are directly related to child-rearing. For example, the government tracks the cost of living, an index which accounts for food, housing, and other necessary expenses. According to the Social Security Administration, this figure hit a seven-year high in 2019, and it will probably increase even further for 2020. Cost of living adjustments are not just statistical. Housing and other expenses often go up or down for individual families.

Indirect expense alterations are difficult to prove in this context. They must affect the children in some way. And, they must have been unanticipated at the time of divorce. Unfortunately for people seeking cost of living increases, everyone knows that prices almost always go up.

Talk to a Tenacious Lawyer

In general, child support obligations should be modified at least once every two years. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.