Child Support Enforcement in Minnesota

Learn how child support is enforced and overdue payments are collected in Minnesota.

In an ideal world, two parents would be able to end their relationship without it having any effect on their children. But in real life, many people find it almost impossible to separate the end of a personal, romantic relationship from their ability to co-parent with their ex. This is perhaps most evident where child support is concerned. One parent will gripe that there isn't enough money to provide for the kids, while the other complains that the financial burden is too high.

This article will explain how child support orders are enforced in the State of Minnesota. If you have any questions about child support enforcement after you read this article, you should contact a family law attorney for advice.

Child Support Overview

Child support is intended to pay for the care, support and education of children. Child support also includes medical support, meaning payment for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. For purposes of this article, the parent who receives child support is known as the “receiving parent,” while the parent who has to pay is called “the paying parent.”

Whether you’re divorcing or you’ve never been married, when your relationship ends you need to get an official child support order - only a child support order can be enforced in court later on. In Minnesota, child support orders are determined according to each parent's gross income and a mathematical formula known as the child support guidelines. For more information on how child support is calculated, please see Child Support in Minnesota by Teresa Wall-Cyb.

Child support can turn into an area of high conflict for parents. Paying parents sometimes suspect that receiving parents are wasting child support money on themselves, instead of paying for the children. Receiving parents can be resentful if they have trouble making ends meet. Sometimes, paying parents resolve this conflict by refusing to make scheduled child support payments. When this happens, receiving parents will need to know what to do to collect payment.

How is Child Support Enforced in Minnesota?

Within the Minnesota Department of Human Services is an unit called the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED). CSED was established to enforce state and federal laws about child support.

CSED performs a number of critical child support functions. It uses an administrative (non-judicial) process to:

  • establish paternity of children born to unmarried couples
  • locate parents who've disappeared
  • establish and modify child and medical support obligations
  • collect and process child support payments
  • work with other states to ensure that parents pay their support orders, and
  • enforce child and medical support obligations.

CSED can also apply enforcement measures when paying parents aren’t meeting their child support obligations.

However, family court judges also have authority to enforce child support orders. So, in urgent or complicated cases, parents might find it’s in their best interest to locate a private lawyer or legal aid attorney who can go to court and argue to a judge on their behalf. In some circumstances, this can be more effective than waiting for CSED to act.

What Happens if I Don’t Pay Child Support as Ordered?

CSED and family court judges have powerful legal and financial tools to obtain payment from parents with past-due child support accounts (known as "arrearages"). However, Minnesota only allows these tools to be used when CSED (or a court) gives the paying parent enough notice and opportunity to pay arrearages.

The available tools include, but are not limited to:

  • CSED can file a legal action called a "contempt," which will require the paying parent to go to court and "show cause," or explain to a judge, why support hasn't been paid on time. Contempts are very serious. They can result in jail time or entry of a judgment that will damage the paying parent's credit score.
  • CSED can report parents with arrearages to the consumer credit bureaus, which will damage those parents' credit ratings.
  • CSED can refer cases for federal criminal prosecution.
  • The Financial Institution Data Match allows CSED to match its records up with the records of banks and credit unions doing business inside and outside of Minnesota. When CSED makes a match, it can garnish bank accounts to collect on arrearages.
  • All Minnesota child support orders include a withholding provision, and CSED sends a withholding order to all employers who've hired paying parents. Employers must withhold funds for arrearages and pay them to CSED. Employers also have to report any new hires and provide wage information, so that CSED can track income sources and parents who move from job to job.
  • CSED can suspend the paying parent's driver's license, recreational licenses, and professional or occupational licenses.
  • CSED will refer cases where the paying parent has arrearages in excess of $2500 to the U.S. State Department, which will automatically deny, revoke, or restrict passports.
  • CSED can place a hold on student grants.
  • CSED can intercept the paying parent's state and federal tax returns and apply them to any arrearages.
  • CSED can charge interest on arrearages.

If you have questions about child support in Minnesota, you should contact an experienced family law attorney in your area.

Resources

Minnesota Statutes Chapter 518A (Child Support)

Minnesota Judicial Branch: Self-Help Center (Child Support)

Law Help Minnesota (child support topics and legal aid for qualifying individuals)

Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child Support Enforcement Division

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