Goal is ensuring fairness while meeting children’s basic needs
New winter coats. School-sanctioned field trips. Co-pays for doctor visits. Raising children is expensive, and for thousands of families across Minnesota, child support is essential, ensuring that children have the resources necessary to thrive. To better meet children’s basic needs, the Child Support Task Force has issued its final report to the Minnesota Legislature, laying out recommendations for updating the state’s child support guidelines, something that hasn’t been done in more than a decade.
In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature created the task force to review the guidelines and advise the Minnesota Department of Human Services on how to update them to ensure that they best serve Minnesota families and help parents work together to support their children even when they don’t live together. Task force members included parents, legislators, professionals who work with families and others. Recognizing the profound impact child support has on Minnesota families, they solicited and accepted public comment from hundreds of parents, grandparents, child support professionals and community members.
Changes recommended by the task force include:
Bringing Minnesota’s guidelines in line with the current cost of child-rearing, so child support obligations for parents with low incomes (combined monthly incomes of $6,000 and below) don’t exceed 16% of gross income of parents who owe child support
Consistently calculating child support obligations for families with higher incomes (combined monthly incomes of $15,000 and above)
Adjusting slightly the current method of calculating child support when parents have other children they are supporting, so that their income is more fairly divided among all of the families.
Allowing courts to deviate from standard child support guidelines if the court determines paying the suggested amount in the guidelines would be a barrier to family reunification for families who have children in out-of-home placement.
Creating a permanent advisory body to address remaining priority issues, providing a venue for public input and developing a process for routinely updating the guidelines.
Additional recommendations can be found in the report, 2019 Minnesota Child Support Task Force: Activities and Recommendations (PDF). All task force recommendations will require legislative action.
“We value the outside perspective of knowledgeable experts who can help us better serve children and families,” said Acting Assistant Commissioner Lisa Bayley. “After carefully considering each recommendation, we will work with the Governor’s Office, Minnesota Legislature and other partners on how to best move forward to ensure equity in our child support guidelines.”
Any changes to the guidelines would affect not only families with a court order to pay or receive child support in the future but families with existing child support orders if they file a motion with the court to modify their order under the new guidelines.
The majority of the economic model underlying Minnesota’s current guidelines is based on a 2001 study on the cost of child-rearing conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Minnesota’s guidelines have not been updated since 2007, when they changed from a model based on a percentage of one parent’s income to a model based on both parents’ incomes.
In federal fiscal year 2018, county and state child support offices provided services for 340,452 custodial and noncustodial parents and their 235,564 children. For every $1 spent on Minnesota’s child support program, $3.26 was collected in support of Minnesota children, according to the 2018 Minnesota Child Support Performance Report (PDF).
The link for that report is https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-7661B-ENG.