Child Support in Minnesota

Find out how child support is calculated in Minnesota, and how those payments can be modified.

Both Parents Are Responsible for Child Support

Child support is a monthly payment a parent makes to help cover the costs of raising a child. Both parents, however, remain financially responsible for the child. The parent with primary physical custody, who cares for a child most of the time, tends to receive the child support payments. This is because the law assumes that this parent already spends money directly on the child. The parent with less parenting time usually makes the payments.

Typically, parents must pay child support until the child is 18, but there are some exceptions. Payments are cut short when a child becomes emancipated. On the other hand, a court could order parents to support a disabled child for a longer time. Also, payments could continue until the child reaches 20 if this child is still attending high school.

Minnesota Child Support Guidelines

The payment amount depends on Minnesota child support guidelines. The guidelines are based primarily on the number of children who need support and the income of both parents. Within those parameters, however, there is some flexibility to account for the child’s reasonable needs, the paying parent’s ability to provide support, and for particular custody arrangements.

The guidelines are simply a fee schedule of basic child support obligations. Although the state presumes that the number given by the guidelines is the appropriate amount of child support, a judge could deviate from the guidelines – in other words, increase or decrease the amount of support – upon finding that it is in the child’s best interest to do so and after considering the following factors:

  • each parent’s financial resources and circumstances
  • the child’s financial resources and needs, and physical, emotional, and educational needs
  • the child’s standard of living if the parents were currently living together
  • whether the child resides in a foreign country for more than one year that has a substantially higher or lower cost of living than this country
  • which parent receives the income taxation dependency exemption and the financial benefit the parent receives from it
  • the parents' debts, and
  • the paying parent’s ability to pay.

Additionally, parents may be entitled to adjustments to the amount of support based on parenting time and childcare payments. Likewise, coverage for other expenses – for childcare or private school, for example – may be added to the support obligation. The child’s health insurance is another expense that one or both of the parents must pay.

Even with these extra deductions and costs, you can still estimate your fair share of support. To help you, the Minnesota Department of Human Services provides a child support calculator, a child support guidelines worksheet, and instructions for computing child support.

Minnesota Child Support Calculator

Minnesota’s child support calculator can give a good idea of the amount of support for most parents. It is not a guaranteed payment, however, and does not include deviations from the guidelines. Before getting started, you will need to find out the following information:

  • each parent's gross monthly income
  • how many children live in each parent's home (do not count children who the parent has a court order to pay child support)
  • any other child support orders for either parent
  • any spousal maintenance orders for either parent
  • the amount of benefits from Social Security or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid to a joint child due to a parent's disability or retirement
  • the monthly cost for both medical and dental coverage
  • the amount of child care costs, and
  • the percentage, or amount of parenting time awarded in a court order.

For child support purposes, gross income generally includes salaries, wages, and commissions, but also pensions and retirement plans. Even without employment, chances are a parent still has income in the form of social security benefits or unemployment compensation. Among other things, income may also include annuities, veterans’ benefits, and spousal maintenance received.

Also, a deadbeat parent can’t avoid paying child support by refusing to work, or even working less. Where a parent is willfully unemployed or underemployed, a court can impute potential income, meaning, come up with an amount that this parent should be making based on several factors, such as employment history, job skills, qualifications, and child care responsibilities, among other things.

Changing the Amount of Child Support

An order for child support is not necessarily set in stone. You can ask a judge to modify (change) a child support order if there has been a substantial increase or decrease in either parent’s gross income, needs, or of the child’s needs. Other justifications for a modification include where one of the parents or the child receives public assistance, where there is a change in the cost of living, or if there are extraordinary medical expenses, work-related costs, or education-related childcare costs. Also, you can request a modification when the cost or availability of health care changes or if the child is emancipated. You can read more under Changing an order, on the state’s human services website.


For information on applying for, paying, and enforcement of child support see Minnesota’s Department of Human Services website. Also there is a worksheet to adjust for parenting expenses when parents share joint custody and a worksheet for childcare costs, regardless of the custodial arrangement. You can also read the law on child support in Chapter 518A of the Minnesota Statutes.

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