In a perfect world, child support checks would always come on time and the child support guidelines would always apply. This arrangement would be ideal for both parents and children. But alas, child support payments are often late, and in fact, they sometimes never come at all. And, Minnesota’s child support guidelines are not applicable in every situation.
However, the guideline presumption is quite strong. So, unless there is very strong evidence on at least one of the points listed below, a Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer should assume the guidelines apply.
These areas apply in both initial determinations and subsequent modifications. In fact, it may be easier to apply these workarounds in modifications, In these situations, residential parents can point to a payment history and identify its inadequacies.
Complete Financial Picture
In the words of the statute, income generally accurately reflects “all earnings, income, circumstances, and resources of each parent.” But that is not always the case.
Many people have indirect income. Perhaps they drive a company car or have similar benefits. Other people live in half of a duplex and rent the other half. If a parent has indirect income, the situation becomes complex. A Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer must convert that benefit into a cash amount and include that amount in the income calculation.
A brief word here about overall child support. Minnesota is an income share state. So, the income of each parent is relevant in the child support determination.
Child’s Extraordinary Needs
The most important word here might be “extraordinary.” All children are unique, so they all have certain gifts and/or certain disabilities. Unless the gift or disability significantly affects the child’s daily life, it is probably not an “extraordinary” need. A variation of the collateral source rule may come into play as well. For example, if the child has a disability but health insurance covers most of the costs, a Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer might not be able to overcome the guideline presumption.
Furthermore, there is a difference between needs and wants. It is not always easy to draw the line. Musically gifted children should develop their gifts, but they do not necessarily need to attend expensive private schools or take pricy private lessons.
Standard of Living During the Marriage
Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyers also deal with this factor in alimony matters. Statistically, divorced women are more likely to live in poverty than divorced men. So, children who reside with their mother might need additional financial support to have a similar standard of living.
But not so fast. First, the guideline presumption is very strong. It takes more than statistics to overcome it. Second, the statute includes a disclaimer. The award must “recogniz[e] that the parents now have separate households.” In other words, the children may not have as much as they had before. As long as the dropoff is not unreasonably large, the guidelines amount probably applies.
This factor does not apply very much. If the children live in a foreign country for more than a year, and the cost of living is substantially lower in that county, a child support reduction may be in order. The same thing applies in reverse. Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyers may be able to increase child support payments if the foreign cost of living is substantially higher. The good news is that, if this factor is relevant, it is relatively easy to prove in court.
Hutchinson, MN Divorce Lawyers and Child Tax Exemptions
On the other hand, this factor almost always comes up. Residential parents routinely claim the federal child tax credit. Residential parents also usually claim the dependent care credit. In most cases, these credits are a few thousand dollars a year, which translates to a few hundred dollars a month. So, if a family has several children and most or all of them are in daycare, an adjustment might be in order.
The wild card in all these factors may be the child support income limits. Guideline amounts apply in most income situations, but not in all of them. Additionally, obligors cannot pay more than half of their income for child support and child support arrearage, no matter what.
Work with a Compassionate Attorney
Child support guidelines are not always applicable in original determinations and subsequent modifications. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area offices to serve our clients.