Because we live in such a mobile society, Minnesota divorce orders were never intended to be permanent. That’s especially true with regard to child support and parenting timeshare arrangements. Unlike alimony, Minnesota child support is almost entirely income based. So, even a rather slight change could support a modification. Furthermore, many parenting time schedules involve a very delicate balance of activities, locations, pickup times, and drop-off locations. Again, even the slightest change could have major repercussions.
When these life changes occur, it’s very important to work with an attorney. Informal “side agreements,” even if they are written, are unenforceable in Buffalo family courts. If one parent unilaterally reneges on the pact, the other parent has no recourse, no matter how long it’s been or what the change was.
Child Support Modifications in Minnesota
Most people change jobs between ten and fifteen times in their working lives. Almost all such changes usually involve more (or less) money. Furthermore, even if a person stays at the same job, compensation usually goes up (or down) periodically.
Legally, income-related changes must be so significant that they render the existing order unfair or unreasonable. That’s quite a mouthful. To make things a bit easier, the Legislature embedded a presumption in the law that a 20 percent change, either up or down, has that effect. The change must be permanent and must also be made in good faith. A temporary influx of overtime does not justify an increase, and obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs, so their child support payments will decrease.
Other changes might also affect the child support obligation. Since Minnesota is an income shares state, part of the initial calculation usually includes the number of overnights for both residential and non-residential parents. If the ratio changes by more than 20 percent, a Wright County judge will presume that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A lesser change might qualify as well, but the moving party would need to produce additional evidence.
Expenses sometimes play a part in initial determinations as well. For example, children grow up, at least from a biological standpoint, so they no loner need daycare. If that’s the case, a Minnesota judge might re-evaluate the child support obligation. Sometimes child-rearing expenses vanish altogether, at least as far as the law is concerned. Children turn 18 and grow up altogether. Or they may get married, die, join the armed forces, or obtain legal emancipation.
In general, none of these modifications are automatic, even age-related adjustments. The judge must rewrite the existing paperwork.
Parenting Time Modifications in Minnesota
Most people move about eleven times. Many times, these relocations are job-related. So, moves may involve both child support and parenting time modifications. Child support is usually based on the income of the parents, and parenting time arrangements are usually based on the best interests of the children. Both these things almost always change regularly.
Minnesota law contains a presumption that it is in the best interests of the children for them to have consistent and meaningful contact with both of their parents. Items like domestic abuse obviously rebut this presumption, but other evidence may suffice as well. There is also a list of factors to consider. Lawmakers recently refined the list. Some of the more prominent items include:
Child’s Special Needs: This factor is a recent addition. Some children have educational, health, or other needs that one parent can meet very well, and the other parent may struggle to deal with.
Parents’ Physical and Mental Health: Some parents have physical health issues, perhaps a chronic condition or an injury, that limit their mobility. Others struggle with depression or substance abuse. These limitations could affect the parenting time distribution. Likewise, if there was an issue and that issue goes away, the split might need to be reconsidered.
Child’s Preference: Unlike some other states, Minnesota does not place an age label here. Instead, Minnesota judges may consider the preference of any children mature enough to indicate such a preference without being influence by one parent or the other.
Status Quo: Family law judges like stability. Therefore, if the current arrangement is working, even if there are problems, many judges hesitate to change it. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” as the old saying goes.
Ability to Co-Parent: Some parents are extremely aggressive in child custody matters. Usually on the advice of counsel, they fight every detail and refuse to compromise. Most Minnesota judges assume that if the parent is confrontational before court, that person will also be confrontational after court. Poor co-parents often make poor residential parents.
Other factors include any agreements between the parties that are also in the child’s best interest, along with the needs of each child.
CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A MINNESOTA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY AT CARLSON & JONES
As a general rule, most people need to modify their divorce orders at least once every two or three years. For a free consultation with an Minnesota Family Law Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Minnesota.