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