For over a hundred years, parents have told their kids Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, like the princess and the pea. The trademark handsome prince scoured the world for a “true princess” to marry, but he could not find one. Then, one dark and stormy night, a princess came to the castle seeking shelter. The old queen thought this girl could be the one, but she had to be sure.
So, the queen arranged for the would-be princess to sleep on twenty mattresses on top of a pea. The next morning, the queen asked the princess how she slept. “Oh, very badly!” she moaned. “I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”
The prince and princess were married that very day. The queen knew that only a true princess could be so sensitive.
You’re probably thinking that’s a nice story which has nothing to do with August 2018 child support changes in Minnesota. But not so fast, ye knave. The PEA (Parenting Expense Adjustment) is one of the most litigated issues in Minnesota child support matters. On August 1, it changes significantly. Who will live happily ever after as a result of this change?
Current Child Support Law in Minnesota
In 2007, the Gopher State joined the majority of other states in the Union and switched to an income share model. Proponents of this child support theory say it is better for the children. The income share model takes the income of both parents and divides the support obligation proportionally between them. So, the children do not suffer financially because of the divorce.
Assume Father and Mother make $10,000 per month. He earns 60 percent and she earns 40 percent. He is responsible for 60 percent of the child support obligation, and she’s responsible for 40 percent. That seems easy enough, right? But not so fast. We are just getting started.
The judge can vary the amount based on several factors, including the aforementioned PEA. There are three adjustment categories based on parenting time: less than 10 percent overnights, 11 percent to 45 percent, and 45.1 percent to 50 percent.
To return to the previous example, Father would pay $1,093 a month if he is in the second category but only $310 a month if he’s in the third category. That’s a very big difference.
No More PEAs, Please
So, our hypothetical mother and father might fight bitterly over two or three overnight visits a year. The difference means over $9,000 a year ($783 a month). These disputes are especially protracted since most Minnesota divorce decrees are quite vague in this area.
A statewide task force examined this problem for over a year and finally published a decision in February 2018. Their solution? Keep the income shares model, but get rid of the current PEA structure. Instead of the sharp and seemingly arbitrary cutoffs in the current system, there is a much more complex formula which should eliminate heavyweight boxing matches over one or two weekends a year. The state says a revised child support calculator is forthcoming.
There is another change as well. Also effective August 1, 2018, parents with more than 55 percent of the parenting time never have to pay child support. Under the current law, such an outcome is still possible, in some cases.
What Should You Do About the Minnesota 2018 Child Support Changes?
If you have an existing child support order, a new law does not constitute changed circumstances. So, you cannot base a motion to modify simply on the PEA calculations. However, if you alter the number of overnights, the child support obligation could change significantly as well.
People who are going through a divorce right now need to be especially mindful of these changes. If you had one figure in mind when the case began, that figure could be a lot different once the case is finalized.
One pea made a big difference for the prince and princess, and one PEA makes a big difference in a child support obligation. But that ends on August 1. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have four offices statewide.