Common Myths About Child Support

Child support: There’s plenty of information out there from many different sources – and not all of them are exactly trustworthy. You’ve likely heard the term “child support” or even seen it as a factor in your own separation and divorce, so it’s a term that’s familiar to many people. Pile on top of that how much is heard in the media about the topic, and often, “facts” are stated when they simply aren’t true.

Child support may be commonplace, but that doesn’t stop myths about it from being circulated and widely believed. These misconceptions can be damaging to everyone involved in the case, so it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Understand child support myths so you can take them for what they are – untrue.

Here’s what you need to know about child support in Minnesota, as well as some of the most prevalent myths, to help set the record straight.

Child Support: What Is It?

Child support is the money paid by one parent to another to help support the welfare of that child. In most cases, the parent who doesn’t provide the primary home is the parent who has to supply child support. The law in this country has set the standard that every child has a right for both parents to support them.

There are three main parts to the idea of child support. They are:

Basic Support

Basic support is the money for expenses related to clothing, feeding, transporting, and housing the child. Normally this is split between parents and based on the income each parent makes.

The parent who pays the support is known as the obligor, while the one who receives it is the obliged. How much the obligor pays will depend on how much each parent makes, as well as how much parenting time each parent has with the child.

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If a child spends many nights with the obligor, then they generally will pay less in support due to parenting expense adjustments. The following are types of things that can lower basic support to help balance the amount paid with the money spent during parenting time by the obligor.

Medical Support

Medical support is the child support paid for dental and medical expenses of the child. This is in addition to any basic child support received. It is based on the parent’s income since both parents are ultimately responsible for this type of care of their children.

Childcare Support

This is the support paid to help cover childcare costs when the parents are working or going to school.

Common Child Support Myths

Now that you understand what child support is, let’s dig in on some of the most pervasive myths out there about it.

Paying Child Support is a Form of Punishment

Child support is never a punishment. However, if you’re the parent burdened with providing financial support for a child, it can feel like one.

Rest assured that the reason the state puts child support in place isn’t to punish you but to ensure that both parents are making contributions to the health, safety, and care of the child. This money is meant only for the benefit of the child, and it’s not meant to reward a parent for having more time with the child. It simply exists to ensure kids are well taken care of.

Only Fathers Pay

A majority of the people who pay child support are men, but they aren’t the only ones who must pay child support. More and more fathers are getting custody of children, and there’s nothing in the law that expressly states that only fathers must pay. If a mother isn’t the primary caretaker of the child, then she will be ordered to pay child support, too. Plus, the person who is the higher earner almost always pays support even if custody is shared equally.

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Child Support Orders Can’t Be Changed

Some people are under the impression that once child support is ordered, you simply have to pay it until the child is 18 – and no changes can be made. This is false. The courts understand that circumstances change, so if income or parenting time changes, then you can petition the court to modify the child support order in accordance with the changes.

Visitation Can Be Withheld If You Don’t Pay

If you fail to pay child support ordered by the court, there are consequences. Not being able to see your child is not one of those consequences. This is a damaging myth, because it leads people to believe that if they fall behind on their payments, they may lose contact with their child. That’s simply not the case.


About the Author:

A former Assistant Public Defender for the Sixth Judicial District in Duluth and former staff attorney for the Indian Legal Assistance Program, Brent R. Olson is an experienced trial lawyer who has appeared in every Courthouse in the Sixth Judicial District and taken over three dozen cases to verdict. At LaCourse, Poole & Envall, Mr. Envall focuses on family law, workers’ compensation, and criminal defense. He has a strong belief in restorative justice and helped to develop the Domestic Violence Restorative Circles program.