When Do You Need a MN Child Support Modification?

When it comes to raising kids there are two certainties: It’s expensive, and it’s going to continually change.

Between the cost of food, childcare, education, extracurriculars, and housing, a lot of parents struggle to meet their children’s needs. Most parents who are going through a divorce in Minnesota have many remaining chapters of co-parenting before their children turn 18. That’s why it’s reasonable to expect that things will change from the time your divorce was settled to when  child support agreements are made.

Whatever judgment or agreement you had at the time of your divorce met your needs then, but circumstances change. You or your ex may have to modify your child support agreement over time. Here’s what you need to know about when it’s appropriate to alter your child support agreement and what you do when that time comes.

When Does a Child Support Order Need Changing?

There are several circumstances under which a child support order should change. The court expects parents to follow the order, and modifications are only granted in certain situations. You should note that an order cannot be modified by just anyone. It must be approved by the court.

The main reasons the court will accept modifying a child support order include:

Substantial Change in Circumstances

In situations where there’s a change of circumstances that require a modification, the court will want to know in detail what those changes are. Perhaps it is that one parent can no longer work due to a disability, or they cannot afford to pay the child support they are currently ordered to provide. It’s up to the court’s discretion to determine if the change in circumstances is enough to support a modification or not.

Changes in the Needs of the Child

It sometimes happens that orders become obsolete in providing what the child needs. So, for example, if a child has increased healthcare needs, then the support order can be changed to cover those expenses – or if a child needs special education classes or to attend a private school for special needs. Once again, the court will determine if the need is substantial enough for a change.

A Difference Between the Order and the Guidelines Under the Law

Child support shouldn’t deviate from the statutory guidelines set by the state. So, if one parent gets a new job and makes more money than the parent paying support, then the child support order is likely to be unreasonable. It will need to be modified to be more in line with Minnesota law.

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How to Modify Child Support

If you want to modify your child support order, then it has to go through the court. You can get the ball rolling on this in one of two ways, which are:

File a Stipulation

You can easily file a stipulation with the court. This is an agreement between you and your co-parent to amend the child support agreement. The court is not obligated to approve this, but it’s likely that if you are able to adequately explain the reason behind the change and why it’s in your child’s best interest, they will do so. After it is filed, the judge reviews it. You likely will not have to appear in court. Once it’s approved, it’s signed and becomes a court order.

File a Motion

You can also choose to file a motion to modify your child support directly with the court. If you take this route, you will be required to demonstrate that a substantial change renders the previous order unreasonable or unfair. This can include losing your job or caring for a child with exorbitant medical expenses. An experienced attorney can help with this motion and ensure that it demonstrates how the change is substantial enough to warrant a change to the child support order.

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Other Things to Note

If you are seeking a change in your child support order, then there are a few very important things to note. Even if you take one of the above paths to change, the current order can only be modified as far back as the date you filed for the modification. Anything before that will require you to pay the previously agreed upon amount.

The court also assumes that a parent has the ability to work a full-time job. If you are filing for a modification because you are underemployed or unemployed, then you have to overcome the presumption that you can work before you can obtain a modification. And this burden of proof rests on the parent who is requesting the child support modification, an  important factor to understand.


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.