How is Child Custody determined in Minnetonka, MN

Getting a divorce is never easy, even more so when children are involved. Determining child custody is one of the most stressful processes divorcing parents have to endure. Whether child custody is determined by parents (through an out-of-court agreement) or by a judge, it is a difficult choice that can have a long-term effect on parents and children.

As a parent, you should consider hiring an experienced child custody lawyer in Minnetonka, MN, if you want to increase the odds of winning the custody of your kids. However, you must also understand how child custody is determined as it can help you prepare for your case thoroughly.

1. Types of Child Custody in Minnesota

To file for child custody in Minnesota, you need to meet the residency requirements. The child must have lived in Minnesota with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months (180 days) before starting the court process. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, which you can better understand by consulting an experienced child custody lawyer in Minnetonka, MN.

In Minnesota, there are two primary types of child custody.

A. Physical Custody

Physical custody provides a parent with the rights for daily care and control of children. So, children will have to stay with the parent having physical custody. Physical custody can also be either joint or sole custody. 

In joint physical custody, the children spend time with both parents, including stay, roughly equally. However, this type of custody is fast becoming a rare norm in most family courts.

Usually, considering the best interest of the children (education, social life, and daily needs), only one parent is given primary physical custody, while the other has visitation rights.

Visitation rights allow a parent to spend exclusive, but limited time with their children. The parent with physical custody is called the custodial parent, and the one with visitation rights is called the non-custodial parent.

B. Legal Custody

Legal custody provides a parent with the right to make long-term or significant decisions in their children’s lives. Usually, these key aspects include decisions regarding education, religion, medical treatment, and dental care, among other things specified in the court order.

You can get either joint or sole legal custody of your child. Joint legal custody means both parents will have an equal say in making important decisions about their children. Sole legal custody, however, gives these rights to only one parent, leaving the other with no legal right in this decision-making.

2. Am I Allowed to See My Children If My Ex Has Sole Custody?

In some rare situations, the court may offer sole physical and legal custody to one parent. It usually happens if one of the parents is deemed unfit or incapable of taking care of the children.

If there is a history of substance abuse, child abuse, domestic abuse, or a criminal record, the court may prevent the non-custodial parent from seeing their children at all. However, it may also allow only supervised visits with highly limited visitation time and rights.

But in most cases, the non-custodial parent will have substantial visitation rights. Most courts emphasize the best interest of the children when making custody decisions. So, although one parent gets full physical custody, the other will still have significant involvement in the children’s upbringing. To understand your best legal options, however, you need to discuss your case in detail with an experienced child custody lawyer in Minnetonka, MN

3. Do Children Have a Say in Child Custody?

In many states, including Minnesota, the courts are increasingly taking children’s preferences into account when deciding child custody. Although there is no specific age limit for children in Minnesota to express their custodial preferences, the court will take them into account only if the judge believes the child is mature enough.

judge believes the child is mature enough. 

The preference also needs to be backed by logical reasoning. A child asking to stay with a parent just because they like it, is often not enough to make the consideration. The court will also take what older children have to say into account instead of what younger ones think, especially wishes of children below seven years are less likely to be entertained in this matter.

4. Are Custodial Arrangements Open to Modification?

Technically yes. The law allows modification of various child custody arrangements such as parenting time, alimony, and visitation rights.

However, it is a challenging process as you have to prove that the circumstances have changed enough to warrant a custodial modification and it is in the best interest of the children. Also, you can’t file for a custody modification  for at least a year from the date of filing the original divorce or legal separation order.

If you have made a modification request before, you need to wait for two years from the date of the last modification request before filing a new one. The one-year limit is not applicable, however, if both parents agree to the custodial changes. An experienced child custody lawyer in Minnetonka, MN can help you better understand the process and regulations about custodial changes applicable to your case.

Conclusion

Child custody is an inevitable part of a divorce process when children are involved. The parents seeking a divorce must, therefore, understand how courts determine child custody in Minnesota. As you can see, there are several factors involved in determining the outcome of your child custody battle. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the basics of the child custody process and your legal rights as a parent

Talk to an Experienced Child Custody Lawyer in Minnetonka, MN Today!

If you are a parent seeking a divorce, you will need to think about child custody from the very beginning. As a leading and experienced child custody lawyer in Minnetonka, MN, Carlson and Jones, P.A. can provide you with the right legal advice. Our experts will always help you do what’s best for your children. Call us at (855) 663-7423 or you can also contact us through our website to know more.

What Does Primary Physical Custody Mean In Minnetonka, MN

The outcome of a child custody case can have a huge impact on the daily life of both parents. If you have children and are planning to get a divorce in Minnetonka or are already going through one, you need to understand how child custody works in Minnesota.

Of course, you can always consult an experienced custody lawyer in Minnetonka about the legal options available to you in your unique circumstances. However, it is a good idea to acquaint yourself with the basics of securing a custody plan that agrees with you and your children.

Child Custody in Minnetonka, Minnesota

Two types of child custody arrangements exist in Minnesota state:

  • Physical custody
  •  Legal custody

Physical custody refers “the routine daily care and control and the residence of the child.” It means having the legal right to make decisions regarding the child’s daily life. The parent who has physical custody typically lives with the child, or decides where the child will live. This parent performs all the regular duties associated with determining how the child spends his/her day.

The term primary physical custody is often used in child custody orders for the parent with whom a child spends the majority of their time. In such cases, both parents have a right to the children, but one parent has more time with his/her child than the other. The child generally lives with the primary custodian, while the non-custodial parent is given visitation rights.

Legal custody is the right and the obligation of a parent to make broader and less tangible decisions pertaining to the child’s upbringing. This includes decisions about the child’s education, religious beliefs, medical care, and more.

In this post, we’ll be focusing on primary physical custody.

How Do Minnesota Courts Work out Child Custody Matters?

Child custody issues arise most commonly in situations when a divorcing couple has children. However, this issue can also arise in other circumstances, like when a child is being looked after by a non-parent or when a child gets involved in the juvenile court system.

Parents who agree on a custody arrangement proceed to file a document called a “stipulation.” The court usually grants them their requests. But when custody is contested, the case goes to either the Family Court when it is related to divorce, or the Juvenile Court when it is related to child protection.

Like all laws, child custody laws also vary by state in Minnesota. The child should have been living in the state of Minnesota with the primary caregiver for at least six months before the case can be filed, unless an exception is made. The court decides the custody arrangements in keeping with the best interests of the child.

Several considerations, such as each parent’s availability, relationship with the child, and so on come into play here.

If parents are not able to resolve their custody-related disagreements informally, they will have to approach the court. In Minnesota courts, parents can seek custody in two ways:

  • If the couple is married, they can file a summons and petition to initiate divorce proceedings and seek physical custody, or
  • If the couple is divorced or separated or never married, but the paternity of the child has been established, a petition or motion can be filed for custody in the county where the child lives or where the court has already issued a custody order previously.

In both cases, one parent will need to submit a written petition or motion to the other parent so that both have the opportunity to explain their respective side of the story to the judge if a hearing is scheduled.

Child custody issues are tied with state laws. Hence, cases where parents and children live in different states are complex to deal with. Fortunately, Minnesota statute encourages cooperation between courts within and outside the state. There are set provisions that enable the sharing of evidence between states. For a clearer understanding of how this works, you should consult a qualified Minnesota child custody attorney.

Important Considerations at Play

As mentioned, Minnesota courts decide on child custody based on the best interests of the child. The courts take into consideration the evidence presented as well as each of the following 13 factors in their decision:

The requests of the parents

  • The preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express their desire
  • The primary caretaker of the child
  • The child’s closeness with each parent
  • The quality of interaction and relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may impact the best interests of the child
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
  • The duration of time the child has lived in a stable family environment, and the interest in its continuity
  • The permanence of the existing or proposed custodial home
  • The physical and mental health of everyone involved
  • The child’s cultural background
  • The history of domestic abuse in the family, if any
  • Each parent’s ability to give provide the child with affection, guidance, education, and teach the child about the family culture, religion, and creed, if any
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to encourage and allow interaction between the child and the other parent (unless domestic violence is involved)

Conclusion

The process of obtaining physical custody of a child can be complex and demanding. Fortunately, you need not go through it alone; legal help is always available. An experienced custody lawyer in Minnetonka can be your best ally and guide you through the legal maze, handle the necessary paperwork in court, and build your case from the ground up. After all, when your children are involved, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Get Legal Guidance from an Aggressive Child Custody Lawyer in Minnetonka, Minnesota

Don’t get lost in the labyrinth of legal paperwork, processes, and jargon when dealing with a child custody matter. Leave it to the experts. The team of experienced custody lawyers in Minnetonka at Carlson and Jones, P.A. will work diligently to bring you positive outcomes. Call us on (855) 976-2444 for a free consultation of your case. You can also contact us with your queries through our website.

 

How to Win a Custody Battle in Buffalo, MN

It is common knowledge that the number of divorces has been climbing steadily over time. According to the latest data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 782,038 divorces (45 reporting States and D.C.) in the US, with a divorce rate of 2.9 per 1,000 people in 2018.

However, getting a divorce is an emotionally and financially stressful process, especially when children are involved. In an unamicable divorce, the battle for child custody can often turn into an ugly fight.

In the end, the court will consider what is in the best interest of you children and a few other factors, depending on your case, when awarding custody. So, as one of the most experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, we often advise our clients to be prepared, irrespective of whether you are a father or a mother.

Here are five tips that can help present your case in the best light and even help you win the custody of your child.

1. Try to Negotiate the Custody

In most divorce cases, you may get a chance to resolve the issue of child custody amicably. Although this isn’t necessarily a part of the legal proceedings, usually experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, will recommend to you to create a parenting plan through mutual negotiations.

The most significant advantage of this approach is that you can avoid a costly and lengthy custody battle. You will be able to save considerable money and time. Furthermore, your children won’t have to face the mental stress of a custody battle in addition to the divorce. In fact, the cordial parenting environment can help your children overcome the mental stress of your legal separation relatively quickly.

2. Don’t Let Your Emotions Run Wild

Staying calm and collected is perhaps the most critical factor to consider when fighting for your child’s custody. Irrespective of how the opposition behaves, you must keep your emotions under check.

Usually, a judge will take your behavior into account when deciding on child custody. If your behavior strikes as erratic or aggressive, the opposition will use it against you. It may compel the court to rule in your spouse’s favor.

Your spouse will also try their best to establish that they are a good parent. However, in most cases, the judge will be able to detect if the opposition is trying to be someone they are not. That’s why you can’t lose your emotional balance at any cost. So, avoid talking to your spouse if it is likely to cause an emotional outburst.

3. Understand Your Legal Rights First

The next important step is to understand the family law in Minnesota. In a child custody battle, you must understand your legal rights as a parent. While you can do some basic research on your own, make sure to consult experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN.

A skilled lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and how to exercise them. For example, after taking a look at your case, the lawyer will be able to tell you whether joint custody is your best bet, or you can ask for sole custody.

Be honest with your lawyer. Don’t invent stories to put yourself in the best light. It will backfire during the court proceedings, taking away your chance of winning joint custody, let alone sole custody.

4. Perception Always Matters

You may not like it; however, perception is often everything in a custody battle. You must try your best to present yourself as a competent, responsible, and loving parent. A seemingly harmless text message, email, or social media post can be entered into the court proceedings and used against you.

Be careful of who you talk or write to, especially when communicating with your spouse or their friends and family members, and lawyers. It is better to communicate through your attorney as far as possible.

Also, make sure to dress properly and speak politely during your court hearings and meetings. Always be on time for court hearings, visits, meetings, and picking up your kids. Being late can be perceived as irresponsible behavior, which is likely to affect your chances of winning custody.

5. Keep Your Kids’ Wellbeing at the Front-and-Center

The last thing you want to do is to use your kids as pawns or tools to win the custody battle. Any experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, will advise you against the idea of putting your children in the courtroom or on the witness stand. In fact, you should keep your children out of the courtroom and your divorce proceedings.

You should never vilify your spouse to turn your children against them. Also, never exaggerate the shortcomings of your spouse. You should never talk negatively about your ex at all. What matters in the court proceedings is evidence, not your opinion. So, keep them to yourself.

If your children ask you difficult questions, try to be positive. Any lies you tell your kids will eventually backfire, causing more harm than good to your case. Make sure to share only the facts your kids can handle. You needn’t burden them with the stress of your divorce. Talk to an expert such as a child psychiatrist, if needed.

Conclusion

When children are involved, child custody becomes the most critical aspect of a divorce. In most cases, the court considers what is in the best interest of children when awarding custody rights to parents. However, you do need to talk to an experienced custody lawyer to increase your chances of winning a custody battle. Hopefully, these five tips will help you make an informed decision about your custody battle.

Call the Most Experienced Custody Lawyers in Buffalo, MN.

Going through a divorce is emotionally stressful. As one of the most experienced custody lawyers in Buffalo, MN, Carlson & Jones, P.A. will help present your case in the best light. Depending on the circumstances of your case, our expert lawyers will try their best to increase your chances of winning child custody. Call us on (855) 976-2444 or contact us online to know more about our legal services.

What does Custodial Parent mean in Minnesota

When a couple with children divorces, the matter of child custody also needs to be addresses. It may also be considered in court actions for paternity, domestic abuse, or when a child is being looked after by a third party.

In Minnesota, the state laws govern the child custody process and determine how related decisions are made by the court. The state laws also help determine whether or not joint custody is an option, along with the appointment of the custodial parent.

Legally speaking, the term “custodial parent” refers to the parent who has physical custody of the child/children for the majority of the time. Even if both the parents agree to co-parent, the custodial parent is responsible for most of the aspects of raising the child.

What Is a Custodial Parent in Minnesota?

Minnesota recognizes two types of child custody:

a. Legal custody: Refers to the legal authority to make long-term decisions related to raising the child.

b. Physical custody: Refers to making decisions about the day-to-day activities of the child and where the child lives.

In general terms, the parent with who the child lives with for the majority of the time is the custodial parent. However, not all parents who have sole physical custody of their child are considered custodial parents by the courts.

For instance, if a single mother is raising her child by herself and the father chooses to remain uninvolved, she will still have to file for child custody to be legally considered the custodial parent.

More often than not, custody actions in Minnesota State require the child to live with the custodial parent for a period of at least six months. There are exceptions to this rule though. For example, if the custodial parent is found to be absent or abusive, the child be placed under the care of the other parent immediately.

As well-practiced Child Custody lawyers in Minnesota, we’ve presented below a helpful few tips for custodial parents that will help them understand their legal responsibilities better.

1. Go by the Visitation Schedule

The custodial parent should work out a mutually-agreeable parenting plan with the non-custodial parent and create a suitable visitation schedule. If there is no parenting plan in place, the court may impose a visitation schedule. If the existing visitation schedule needs to be altered in any way, the custodial parent is required to notify the non-custodial parent about it in advance.

2. Record Child Support Payments

If the custodial parent is receiving child support, they should ensure to keep a record of each payment. This proof of payment can be submitted in court if you need to start receiving child support again.

3. Involve the Non-Custodial Parent

In case of joint custody of the child, the custodial parent is required to consult the non-custodial parent on all important matters that affect the child.

Ideally, the child should be around both parents, with each equally involved. Having honest and open communication about handling challenging situations that arise when raising the child can go a long way in creating an effective parenting plan. This will enable the non-custodial parent to be as involved as possible in the child’s life.

4. Prioritize the Child

At the end of the day, everything boils down to what’s in the best interest of the child. This is the main aspect that all family courts consider. It entails doing what is needed to ensure that the child develops into a happy and healthy individual. This means that both parents should place the needs of their child above everything else. Prioritizing the wellbeing of the child ensures that he/she lives in a stable and safe environment.

5. Keep the Non-Custodial Parent Updated about Your Travel Plans

If the custodial parent decides to relocate with the child, they need to discuss it with the non-custodial parent and seek their permission to do so. Further, the non-custodial parent has the right to initiate a change in the child’s custody due to the relocation.

Even if the custodial parent wants to take a vacation with the child, it is mandatory for them to inform the non-custodial parent about their travel plans in advance.

6. Consult the Non-Custodial Parent about Major Expenses

If the non-custodial parent is spending money to cover a part the child care or the child’s medical expenses, the custodial parent should speak to them before making an exorbitant expenditure. It is always preferable that both parents are financially sound. But, if you find that your ex-spouse cannot cover major costs, it doesn’t mean you don’t make the purchase. You can simply delay it for some time.

Becoming the Custodial Parent in Minnesota

To be legally considered the custodial parent of your child, you will need to file for custody in the family court. You can file for custody yourself, a process known as filing pro se.

Alternatively, you may want to get in touch with an astute Minnesota child custody attorney to get the custody process started and develop a strategy that helps achieve your goal.

Conclusion

Being a custodial parent requires a high level of responsibility and maturity. All said and done, it is crucial to always bear the best interest of your child in mind when making decision that pertains to their life. Any court decision will be based on this. Hopefully, the above information will help you understand what it means to be a custodial parent in Minnesota.

Reach out to Child Custody Lawyers in Minnesota to Discuss Your Concerns

Understanding the Minnesota state laws that play a role in determining child custody can leave you confused. At Carlson & Jones, our Minnesota child custody lawyers know how to find a legal middle ground between what you consider best for your child and the applicable state laws. For a free consultation, call us at (855) 976-2444. You can also contact us through our website.

When Can Minnesota Family Lawyers Modify Child Support Obligations?

For many families, child support payments are a significant chunk of their monthly income. But only about a third of obligees (people receiving support) receive the full amount every month. Many obligors (people paying support) pay what they feel is fair as opposed to what is ordered. In these situations, the child support amount should probably be modified, so obligor, obligees, and children have similar expectations.

Child support obligations are somewhat easier to modify in Minnesota than they are in some other jurisdictions. The Gopher State is an income share state. Since the child support obligation accounts for a number of economic and noneconomic factors, judges can usually modify support amounts.

Intentionally underpaying support is a bad idea. It’s only a matter of time before the state takes action. So, whether you need to increase or decrease the child support obligation, it’s best to partner with a Minnesota family lawyer.

Income Decreases

Monthly income is one of the leading factors in child support determinations. So, if the obligor’s income has decreased, a child support modification is usually in order. It’s normally best to act quickly in these cases since child support decreases are normally not retroactive.

Proof of income is normally enough evidence, particularly for obligors who only have W-2 income. Self-employed obligors might need to submit additional proof, such as several years of tax returns or several months of bank statements, to show the income decrease was authentic and consistent.

Minnesota family lawyers usually cannot decrease the amount if there is evidence that the obligor intentionally left a higher-paying job to reduce his or her child support obligation. Evidence of intentional underemployment includes things such as social media posts or likes about the high cost of child support or the supposed unfairness of these payments. Such chatter is especially common on some dubious fathers’ rights websites.

Minnesota Family Lawyers and Income Increases

Income increases are a bit more difficult to prove unless a Minnesota family lawyer conducts extensive discovery. This process is often expensive and time-consuming. So, it’s better to look for circumstantial evidence of income increase, like lifestyle upgrades or a sudden improved ability to pay monthly bills. If the obligor contests the increase despite this evidence, many judges order obligors to pay the other side’s attorneys’ fees.

Establishing changed income is not enough. That change must also be substantial and permanent. As a rule of thumb, any change greater than about 10 percent is substantial. Judges mike modify child support obligations for lesser amounts, but such changes are not easy. Additionally, the increased income must be permanent. Self-employment income spikes and occasional bonuses are almost always insufficient.

Income change modifications are typically agreed motions. Generally, a Minnesota family lawyer simply submits these orders. Most judges sign them without hearings.

Frequently, both parents are not 100 percent convinced that a modification is needed. Pre-filing mediation is often useful in these situations. A third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Minnesota family lawyer, works with both sides to facilitate a settlement.

Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful. This form of alternative dispute resolution saves everyone time and money.

Emotional Changes

The timesharing arrangement is also a factor in Minnesota child support orders. So, the timesharing division is also a potential factor in child support modification actions. However, emotional-based modifications are not easy to prove.

The same basic principles apply. The emotional changes must be substantial. Usually, only a significant change in the number of overnight visits convinces judges to make such modifications. Alternatively, conversions from partial visitation to full visitation might suffice as well. For example, Father might have had limited contact with his son until he overcame an alcohol addiction.

Parental Alienation Syndrome, which comes in many forms, often clouds these issues. Alienating parents try to drive an emotional wedge between the targeted parent and the child. If the judge sees any evidence of PAS, such as a sudden change of parental preference, they will usually not modify custody or support unless a social worker makes a favorable recommendation.

Talk to a Compassionate Attorney

Various factors could support a successful child support modification motion. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota family lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and after-hours visits are available.

When can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Adjust a Child Support Obligation?

Typically, child support obligations should be adjusted, either up or down, at least once every three years. That’s the only way to keep up with things like employment changes, lifestyle changes, and emotional changes. Child support adjustments usually require parenting plan modifications as well, because these changes frequently overlap. For example, a new job usually means a different commute time or even a relocation.

In both these situations, it’s very important that the judge approve the changes. Informal side agreements regarding parenting time changes, even if these pacts are in writing, are unenforceable in Wright County family court. Additionally, as far as the state is concerned, the child support obligation listed in the decree, and not the one the parties agreed on, is the only one that matters.

So, even if the child support change is agreed, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney should be part of the process. Typically, judges approve agreed changes without holding hearings. Moreover, if the parties do not agree 100 percent on everything, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually bring them together. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge and streamline the modification process.

Income Changes

Most people change jobs at least twelve times during their careers. Most of these changes involve compensation changes as well. Additionally, even if people stay put, annual salary adjustments are commonplace.

As for proof, sometimes a recent paystub is sufficient, for obligors requesting increases or decreases. But that’s not true in most cases. A significant number of people freelance on the side, or they might be completely self-employed. Additionally, some compensation, such as a company car or provided housing, does not appear on paystubs.

Obligees seeking to increase the child support obligation often face different issues. So, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney requests financial documents during discovery. Obligees can also look for red flags, such as lifestyle changes, which indicate the obligor is making more money.

Income changes, along with any other ground for modification, must be mostly involuntary. Obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs in order to reduce their child support obligations. The same thing holds true for alimony reductions. Circumstantial evidence of intentional underemployment includes social media posts about high support payments.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

In a few states, parental income, and specifically the obligor’s income, is basically the only factor to consider. But Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments in these states are designed to give the children the same standard of living they would have had if their parents were still married.

So, in Wright County, expense changes could prompt payment changes. Some expenses, such as insurance costs, are factored into the child support guidelines. Others, such as private school tuition costs, are not factored in.

Expense changes will not support a motion to modify child support unless they were unanticipated at the time the decree was entered. Daycare expenses are a good example. These changes are inevitable. Children get older, leave daycare, and attend school. The added money obligees receive through elementary and middle school years helps them cope with the increased expenses which come during the high school years.

Moreover, expense changes must be in the best interests of the children. That’s different from the best interests of the parents. Private afterschool care might be much more convenient than the YMCA, but it may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child.

Emotional Changes

Speaking of children growing older, child support terminates at age 18, in most cases. Most decrees include language to that effect, but sometimes, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney needs to file a motion to modify based on age, marriage, emancipation, or whatever.

Not all emotional changes are this dramatic. As mentioned, Minnesota is an income share state. So, the parenting time division is relevant to the child support obligation. As children get older, visitation time often changes as well. Eight or ten overnights a month might become a dozen or more.

If the emotional change is significant, the judge will probably adjust the child support obligation appropriately. Usually, this adjustment is just a matter of recalculating the guideline amount using the correct number of overnights. Smaller changes, such as children staying with Mom after school, probably do not qualify as significant.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Lawyer

Child support obligation amounts are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Five Ways a Hutchinson, MN Divorce Lawyer Can Change Guideline Child Support

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.

Foreign Residence

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.

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

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.

Seven Ways a Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorney Can Bypass the Child Support Guidelines

Like most other states, Minnesota is an income-share jurisdiction in terms of its child support guidelines. These guidelines, which are presumptively reasonable, take into account the parenting time division, collective parental income, and a few other key factors.

However, as all good Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys know, there is a big difference between “presumptively” reasonable and “absolutely” reasonable. Every family, and every situation, is different. So, a McLeod County judge may deviate from the guidelines, either up or down, if the requesting party produces sufficient evidence on one of the following points.

High-Income Families

According to Minnesota law, the child support amount guidelines do not apply to individuals who earn more than 40 times the federal minimum wage. Admittedly, not very many people earn $290 per hour, which is forty times the $7.25 per hour minimum wage. However, that figure is not an absolute number. The higher the person’s income gets, the more the presumption of reasonableness fades. So, a higher-than-average income, coupled with any evidence of any other factor, is often enough to overcome the presumption.

All Available Financial Resources

Many jobs offer substantial non-cash benefits. For example, self-storage managers often live rent-free onsite and traveling salespeople usually drive company cars. In these cases, the non-cash benefits mean more disposable income, since these individuals do not pay rent or car payments. Therefore, a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney can argue that the payment should be higher or lower, depending on whether the obligee or obligor receives such benefits.

Extraordinary Needs

Some children have special medical, emotional, educational, or other needs. The one-size-fits-all guidelines do not account for these requirements. Note that the child must have extraordinary needs. Most parents would agree that teenagers are more expensive to raise than younger children, but age is not an extraordinary need. Furthermore, there is a difference between the child’s needs and the child’s wants.

Debt Division

Generally, the property division is separate from the child support obligation. But in Minnesota, that’s not always the case. If a parent pays a child-related debt, like a child’s old hospital bill, and certain other conditions are present, a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney can often adjust the monthly child support payment.

Standard of Living During the Marriage

Much like the first factor discussed above, this factor is also income-based. Typically, it applies when a high-earning spouse and a low-earning spouse divorce, and the children stay with the low-earning spouse. Since Minnesota is an income share state, the child support payment must enable the children to live basically the same lifestyle they would have had if their parents remained married. If that outcome requires a child support adjustment, then so be it.

Tax Considerations

Unlike the previous factor, this factor comes up a lot. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons for deviation from the guidelines. The recent Tax Cut and Jobs Act doubled the child tax credit to $2,000 per child. That’s quite a bit of money, especially if there are several children in the family. Arguably, to offset this amount, the residential parent must either file Form 8332 and sign over at least part of the child tax credit or accept a lower monthly payment from the obligor. Of course, that $2,000 tax credit does not necessarily translate to a $2,000 benefit.

Residence in a Foreign Country

In our ever-shrinking world, international families are more and more common. Additionally, a job may take a person overseas. If the children live in a foreign country for more than a year, and that country has a substantially higher or lower cost of living than the United States, a McLeod County judge may revise the child support payments either up or down.

Count on an Experienced Lawyer

Minnesota’s child support guideline amounts are not absolute. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Five Ways a Buffalo Child Custody Lawyer Can Enforce Support Obligations

All over the country, nonresidential parents owe billions of dollars in child support to residential parents. In fact, arrearage is the norm in these cases. Only 44 percent of child support obligees receive the full, court-ordered amount.

For the most part, Minnesota has debtor-friendly laws. It is difficult or impossible to seize assets to pay creditors, especially if the debtor files bankruptcy. Judges are happy to resolve legal disputes, but they are hesitant to be debt collectors. Many judges believe that such action is outside their scope of responsibilities. Since debtors prisons are illegal in the United States, they may be right.

But family support, especially child support, is different. If an obligor owes delinquent support, a Buffalo child custody lawyer can show the obligee a number of options. They range from attention-getting to almost draconian, so generally, you can pick the level of action that’s best for you and your family.

Order to Obtain Employment

The old “I can’t pay child support because I don’t have a job” excuse is not very effective these days. Statewide, unemployment is at a 10-year low. In some areas, such as St. Paul, it is even lower. Because of this environment, many Wright County family law judges are more willing than ever to issue orders to obtain employment, if all three of the following conditions are present:

  • No Employment Verification: In this context, odd jobs and perhaps even independent contracting gigs, like driving for Uber, may not be “employment.” Typically, a judge requires evidence of steady employment, like a few recent paystubs.
  • Substantial Arrearage: The obligor must owe at least three times one months’ support obligation. So, if the monthly obligation is $1,000, a judge will not sign an order to obtain employment unless the obligor owes at least $3,000. Both child support and alimony count here.
  • Failure to Comply with Payment Plan: Many times, obligors promise to add catch-up payments to their monthly obligations. If they make empty promises, a judge may step in.

Generally, the orders require obligors to find jobs that pay approximately what they were making before. Additionally, if the obligor does not make at least five verified attempts to find a job each week, the judge will be very unhappy.

Tax Refund Intercept

This collection method is quite popular during the annual tax season. It may be even more popular this year. Due to the 2017 tax code reforms, many people may be getting larger refunds this year.

A tax refund intercept may not satisfy the entire arrearage amount. But it is extremely easy to collect, as the IRS is quite cooperative in these situations. Tax refund intercept is also a good way for a Buffalo child custody lawyer to learn the obligor’s current address and perhaps even bank account information. This information could be extremely useful in other related family law situations.

Drivers’ License Suspension

Another tax refund intercept plus is that there is no minimum amount. That’s not true in most other cases, including drivers’ license suspension. To take this action, the aforementioned triple arrearage requirement applies. Plus, the order must include a 90-day stay, so the obligor has time to set up a payment arrangement.

This measure may not work right away. Most people who have suspended licenses ignore them and keep driving anyway. But it’s only a matter of time before the obligor gets pulled over or needs to renew the drivers’ license. To move things along faster, the suspension order might also include a motor vehicle lien.

Buffalo Child Custody Lawyers and Professional License Suspension

This enforcement measure is something like an old stick of dynamite. It could do a lot of damage, or it could blow up in your face.

Many people count on a law license, nursing license, medical license, or another state-issued license to make money. Additionally, if they practice the profession while that license is suspended, they could face disciplinary sanctions. So, an occupational license suspension sometimes gets the obligor’s attention faster than anything else.

Then again, the whole thing could backfire. If obligors lose their earning ability, they may petition the court for a child support reduction. More than likely, a Wright County family law judge will at least seriously consider that request.

A Buffalo child custody lawyer will look at all the financial, emotional, and other aspects before making a recommendation in this area.

Bond Payment

This method often supplements one of the methods discussed above. Assume Ralph owes Alice $5,000 in child support. Alice works with a Buffalo child custody lawyer, and faced with possible drivers’ license suspension, Ralph agrees to a payment plan. The judge may also order Ralph to post a bond, perhaps one month’s child support, so Alice will have money if he falls behind again.

Sometimes, a Buffalo child custody lawyer can include a bond payment order in the divorce decree. Typically, Ralph or the other potential delinquent dad must be self-employed and have a history of nonpayment.

Count on Savvy Attorneys

Obligees who are owed child support money have several legal options in Minnesota. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo child custody lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.

 

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