Under Minnesota Statute § 518A.39, subd. 2, an order for child support may be changed by showing that the terms are unreasonable or unfair including:
1) a substantial increase or decrease in the gross income of either party;
2) a substantial increase or decrease in need of the parties or child(ren);
3) receipt of assistance under AFDC program;
4) change in the cost of living for either party;
5) extraordinary medical expenses of the child not provided for under §518A.41;
6) a change in the availability of health care coverage or a change in health care coverage costs;
7) the addition or substantial change of work-related or education-related child care expenses; or
8) emancipation of the child(ren).
Unfair Presumption In a case where the gross income of the party responsible for the child support payment has decreased by at least 20 percent through no fault of the party, the the current support order is presumed unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2, (b)(5). In other words, if your income decreases significantly (by at least 20%), your child support obligation is considered unfair and may be decreased. A child support order is also presumed unfair when the application of the child support guidelines result in a calculation that is at least 20 percent and at least $75 per month higher or lower than the current support order. This means that once the figures are run through the child support calculator, there must be a 20 percent plus $75 difference (higher or lower) than the current support order in order for the presumption to apply.
Voluntary Unemployment If you are voluntarily unemployed, underemployed, or employed less than full-time, child support is calculated based on potential income. Minn. Stat. § 518A.32, subd. 1. Cases in which your child support obligation would not be calculated based on potential rather than actual income include unemployment, underemployment, or less than full-time employment because of physical or mental problems or incarceration. For instance, if a mental or physical condition prevents you from keeping your current job or getting a new job, your support payment would not be based on potential income. Generally, attending school rather than working full time is not considered voluntary unemployment. In re Custody of A.S.R., 539 N.W.2d 607, 612 (Minn. App., 1995). In In re Custody of A.S.R., the court decreased the father’s child support payment when he quit his full time employment to enroll as a full time student at the University of Minnesota. The court’s reasoning was that the child would benefit from his parent continuing with higher education. Id. However, each case is different and you have to show that further education will lead to greater income in the future, consequently greater child support for the minor child in the future.
Prior Income A court may also consider your prior income in evaluating your ability to meet a child support order. Darcy v. Darcy, 455 N.W.2d 518 (Minn. App., 1990). But, prior income must be considered in light of all the situation’s circumstances. So, if the amount of your child support obligation was set while you were in a high paying position, but you are no longer in that position, that prior income may be discounted when reviewing all of the circumstances of your situation. Minnesota law assumes that the person who pays child support has enough income to pay the support award. Minn. Stat. § 518A.71. If you are asking for that award to be decreased, it is your burden to show an inability to pay the child support.
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