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Minnesota Parenting Time & Child Support Laws Effective 2018

In August 2018, the Minnesota child support laws were changed to take into account every day that each parent has with the children for parenting time, to compute an appropriate child support obligation. Taking a step back in time, in 2007 the child support laws in Minnesota were changed to form a nexus between the amount of time that a parent has with a child and the amount of child support that the parent must pay. Prior to 2007, the amount of child support paid was contingent on the actual custody label agreed to: if one parent received sole physical custody, then the other parent was required to pay a set amount of child support (with some exceptions).

The 2007 changes made it so that the custody labels had no impact on the amount of child support to be paid, but instead, the amount of “court ordered” time that each parent had with the children was the deciding factor. Under the 2007 laws, there were two “parenting expense adjustments” equivalent to ten percent, and forty-five percent. Therefore, if a parent had parenting time with his or her children at least ten percent of the time, that parent would receive a 12% reduction in his or her child support, and if a parent had parenting time at least forty-five percent of the time, that parent would receive a 50% reduction in his or her child support. This was the battleground from 2007 until 2018, when the child support laws changed once again.

Under the laws implemented in 2018, there are no longer only two parenting expense adjustments. Instead, every day that each parent has with the children is factored in computing an appropriate child support obligation. In determining the number of days, the Court looks at the number of “overnights” or “overnight equivalents.”

Under the new laws, the parents are no longer battling for 45%, which has reduced the amount of litigation when one parent was just below that 45% threshold. However, one initial issue with the new 2018 law, is that most parenting time and child support orders from prior to 2018 did not specify the total number of overnights that each parent had with the children. Therefore, as we transition into the new law (where every overnight counts), it is now important to specify exactly how many overnights each parent has with the children.

One additional area of contention, is with the definition of an “overnight equivalent.” If one parent has the children from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and the children are then returned to the other parent, who simply puts the children to bed, who gets that day for purposes of determining the overnight or overnight equivalent? The day can only get allocated to one parent. This is an evolving area of the law that our Court of Appeals will likely be clarifying in the coming years.

If you are in a custody or child support proceeding right now, it is important to know your rights and it is important how your agreement (if any) is reduced to writing. If one parent has most “days” with the children and the other parent has most “nights” with the children, a compromise should be made on how those days & nights are counted for child support purposes. Contact our firm if you have any questions or need help with your parenting time or child support matter.