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Last reviewed September 2022

Minnesota Issue Guide
Child Support Guidelines

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

Legislative History    Books and Reports    Articles    Internet Resources   Additional Library Resources 

The longstanding child support guidelines have undergone several major changes in the past few decades. The guidelines were changed in 2005, which became effective in 2007; minor clarifications were added in 2006; a 2012 gubernatorial veto dictated further clarifications; the 2015 amendments addressed those needs; further clarifications were added in 2016, which became effective in 2018; modifications were made in 2021, many of which will become effective in 2023. From 1953 to 2005, the guidelines were coded in chapter 518, but they were renumbered to 518A in the 2006 Minnesota Statutes.

In May, 2005, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill which made significant changes to Minnesota’s existing child support laws and introduced new child support guidelines. Laws of Minnesota 2005, chapter 164, became effective on January 1, 2007 for new child support cases. Prior to passing this bill, Minnesota was one of only 13 states that did not consider both parents' income in the calculation of child support. Minnesota had traditionally assigned child support payment to the parent who was not awarded primary physical custody. The 2005 legislation allowed for child support obligations to be based on the "gross income" of both parents and the "parenting time" for each.

Key components of the 2005 law:

  • Established guidelines to help courts determine child support based on the parents' combined gross incomes.
  • Allocated child care and medical support based on the income of each of the parents and defines what appropriate medical coverage is for the children.
  • Presumed that both parents are entitled to have custody of their children 25 percent of the time.
  • Allowed for the adjusting of child support every two years based upon a change in the cost of living.
  • Granted parents a "parenting expense adjustment," essentially a 12 percent reduction on payments if they spent a certain amount of time with the children (from 10 to 45 percent of the time).
  • Allowed for deductions from a parent's monthly gross income for non-joint children in their home.
  • Allowed for a six month review hearing upon the request of either parent.
  • Increased divorce filing fees by $50 and child-support modification fees by $35.
  • Required the Department of Human Services to develop a Web-based child-support calculator.

The Minnesota Department of Human Services Child Support Enforcement Division supervises the child support program. County child support offices administer it by working with parents to establish and enforce support orders. For more information from the Dept. of Human Services, please see the first entry under Significant Internet Resources within this guide.

Some clarifications were made to the 2005 child support/custody legislation in the 2006 session. Basic support guidelines were updated. Custody considerations in moving a child to another state were addressed in more detail. Child support was calculated based on potential income for voluntarily unemployed or underemployed parents. See Minnesota Statutes, section 518A.32, subdivision 2 for determining potential income. The 2006 language also clarified the support order as it relates to those who receive public assistance.

In his veto of HF322 in 2012, Governor Mark Dayton called for a meeting of stakeholders to come to a better agreement on parenting time legislation. As a result, the informal Minnesota Custody Dialogue Group was formed. In 2015, the group presented its draft legislation, which was introduced as several separate bills and passed as a family law package, Laws of Minnesota 2015, chapter 30. The legislation revised the "best interests of the child" factors used to make custody determinations and made various changes to child support statutes, such as clarifying the income tax dependency exemptions that each parent can take, the types of income information required to make child support determinations, and the ability to request a lower interest rate on a child support judgment or award. A Child Support Work Group was created during the 2015 session (Laws of Minnesota 2015, chapter 71, section 121), to review, identify, and recommend changes to the parenting expense adjustment prior to the 2016 session.

Legislation in the 2016 session amended Minnesota Statutes sections 518A.26-518A.78 to provide a new method for calculating the parenting expense adjustment and went into effect on August 1, 2018. Parenting time percentages are defined by an annual average based on a two-year period rather than a two-week period. The formula for deciding the support obligation are based on the relative income of the parents and an "overnight equivalent" was added to the calculations. This legislation also created a Child Support Task Force to advise the Commissioner of Human Services and to report issues and recommendations on child support policy and practice.

Minnesota Statutes section 518A.39, subdivision 2 was amended in 2018 with language which presumes that a change in the law is a substantial change in circumstances for child support modification purposes. This was a reversal of the previous language which presumed that a change in law was not a substantial change in circumstances.

In 2021, HF2128, article 10 (Laws of Minnesota 2021, chapter 30) modified the child support guidelines and removed interest charging requirements for child support judgments. Many of the provisions of this law were recommendations from the Child Support Task Force's 2019 report and will go into effect January 1, 2023.

Legislative History

Significant Books and Reports

Aves, Lynn. Minnesota's Child Support Laws: An Overview. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, November 2015.

Aves, Lynn. Child Support: Basic Questions. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, August 2014.

Beld, Jo Michelle. Child Support Guidelines Review: Advisory Task Force Final Report. St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2001. (KFM5504.8 .B45 2001)

Child Support Enforcement: Evaluation Report. St. Paul: Office of the Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division, 2006. (HV742.M6 C45 2006)

Child Support Work Group. Child Support Work Group Final Report. St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2016. (HV742.M6 M5632 2016)

Employer's Guide to Minnesota Child Support Laws. St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2019. (KFM5504.8 .E47)

Evaluation of Minnesota Child Support Enforcement Mechanisms and Programs: Report to the Minnesota Legislature. St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2013. (HV742.M6 E93 2013)

A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments. St. Paul: Office on the Economic Status of Women, 2014. (KFM5504.8 .G84 2014)

Legislative Report: Minnesota Child Support Task Force Activities and Recommendations. St. Paul, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2018 & 2019. (HV742.M6 M5633)

Minnesota Custody and Child Deskbook. St. Paul: Minnesota State Bar Association, Continuing Legal Education, 2021. (KFM5504.6 .M565 2021)

Minnesota Child Support Performance Report. St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2003-. (HV742.M6 M563)

Minnesota Child Support Program Strategic Plan, 2010-2014. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services. (HV742.M6 M573)

Minnesota Department of Human Services Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED): Analysis of Service Delivery Model (ASDM) Project. St. Paul: Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2009. (HV742.M6 M56 2009)

Minnesota Joint Physical Child Custody Presumption Study Group Report. St. Paul: Office of the State Court Administrator, 2009. (KFM5504.6 M562 2009)

Minnesota's New Child Support Law. St. Paul: Minnesota State Bar Association, Continuing Legal Education, 2005. (KFM5504.8.Z9 M56 2005)

Quadrennial Review of Minnesota Child Support Guideline (2010). St. Paul: Child Support Enforcement Division, Minnesota Department of Human Services, 2010. (HV742.M6 M562 2010)

Rogers, Mark. Economic Critique of "Evaluation of the New (2007) Minnesota Child Support Guideline Basic Support Schedule." (KFM5504.8.R64 2006)

Venohr, Jane. Assessing the Impact of the New (2007) Minnesota Child Support Guideline Using Case File Data. Denver, CO: Policy Studies Inc., 2006. (KFM5504.8.V47 2006)

Venohr, Jane. Evaluation of the new (2007) Minnesota Child Support Guideline Basic Support Schedule. Denver, CO: Policy Studies Inc., 2005. (KFM5504.8.V46 2005)

Significant Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Walker, Tim. "Bill Aims to Make 'Much-Needed Changes' to Child Support Formulas." Session Daily, February 25, 2021.

Campbell, Ricky. "Legal Presumption for Child Support Modifications Would Flip Under Bill OK'd in House." Session Daily, April 23, 2018.

Campbell, Ricky. "House Passes Bill Giving Unmarried Parents in Child Custody Cases New Opportunity." Session Daily, April 16, 2018.

Brown, Jason and Brown, Cynthia. "All in the Family: Case Illustrates Erosion of Physical Custody Label." Minnesota Lawyer, August 10, 2017.

"Family-Law Reforms Come After Two Years of Consensus Building." New Laws 2015, July 2015.

Brown, Jason and Brown, Cynthia. "All in the Family: Dayton Signs Best-Interest Factors Into Law." Minnesota Lawyer, June 8, 2015, p. 3, 9.

Steller, Chris. "After Decade-Long Family Feud, Reformers Unite for Fraying Families." Session Daily, February 11, 2015.

Eidsness, Alan and Driggs, Jaime. "Family Law: Parenting Time Laws May Get Overhaul." Minnesota Lawyer, February 5, 2015.

Ellman, Ira Mark and Ellman, Tara O'Toole. "The Theory of Child Support." Harvard Journal on Legislation, Vol. 45, No. 1, Winter, 2008, p. 107-163.

Maxim, Allison. "Minnesota's New Child Support Law: An Overview." The Hennepin Lawyer, Vol. 76, No. 5, May, 2007, p.10-13.

Plotnick, Robert D., et. al. "The Impact of Child Support Enforcement Policy on Nonmarital Childbearing." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 26, No. 1, Winter, 2007, p.79-98.

Beld, Jo Michelle. "Getting the Order Right: Child Support Guidelines and the Cost of Raising Children." Review of Policy Research, May 2006, p.761-779.

Hopfensperger, Jean. "A New Equation on Child Support: a Revised Minnesota Formula Means Big Changes for Divorced Parents Starting in 2007." Star Tribune, June 13, 2005, p.1A.

Stassen-Berger, Rachel E. "State's New Child Support Rules Faulted: Activists Point Out Flaws, but Others Say Perfection Elusive." St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 2, 2005, p.A1.

Significant Internet Resources

Child Support - Minnesota Department of Human Services' website with information devoted to the topic. See also their Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator - part of the Minnesota Child Support Online secure website for current child support participants.

Child Support Resource Directory - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

Research Area: Families, Child Support - Nonpartisan economic and social policy research from the Urban Institute.

Children's Issues: Links to the World - Noteworthy Internet resources selected by Library staff.

Legal Topics: Child Support - This section of the Minnesota Law Library's FAQ suggests additional resources for Minnesotans looking for information on child support.

Minnesota Judicial Branch Website: Court Forms - Child Custody/Parenting Time and Child Support forms.

Office of Child Support Enforcement - This division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children & Families, offers resources, publications, a FAQ guide and more on their website.

Additional Library Resources

For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
C36.7 (Child Support)

For additional reports at the Legislative Library, use these Library catalog searches:
Child Support - Minnesota; Child Support

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