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How is Minnesota child support determined?

Determining who is financially responsible for a minor child is a decision made by a Minnesota family court judge in many types of proceedings, including divorces, child-custody hearings, paternity lawsuits and even temporary protection order cases where domestic abuse is an issue. In some cases, a judge may require temporary child support, while a case is ongoing and the minor child lives with his or her primary custodian.

What are the basic decisions courts make about child support? Courts will gauge both parents' abilities to pay for their children's ongoing needs. Those needs are also estimated by the attorneys of all parties involved. It is no surprise that parents often have different estimates of the amount of child support that is required.

What does basic child support include? A court considers a child's primary needs -- housing, food, school costs and other basic expenses -- as the major elements that require support. Both parents' incomes are then calculated to determine their ability to meet these basic needs. In cases in which one parent is already paying child support for other children from previous relationships, the total amount of these payments is deducted from that parent's gross total income, so that he or she will not be hampered in his or her ability to meet existing support payments.

What else does Minnesota law require? In addition to meeting basic needs, parents often must pay for medical care their children need. The medical care can be provided by medical insurance coverage, monthly payments on medical care services, such as dental coverage through MinnesotaCare, or paying just a portion of necessary medical expenses if income is too low.

What if the parents are minors themselves? In these cases, a court-appointed guardian can help them figure out how much child support they can afford to pay.

Source: MN.gov, "Establishing orders," Jan. 30, 2015

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