*By Sydnie Peterson
Effective January 1, 2023, the Minnesota child support guidelines will undergo various targeted changes that aim to have a large impact on child support awards. Child support awards are court ordered and intended to adequately provide for children’s “care, housing, food, clothing, transportation, and additional support for medical costs” and child care. In 2021, about 220,000 Minnesota children benefited from child support awards, and officials “distributed more than $550 million in payments.” Child support is a significant enterprise that is of monumental importance for many Minnesotan families. Before this update, child support calculations were based on 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture poverty guidelines, which no longer reflects modern families’ economic realities and needs. The legislature recognized this in 2021 when new legislation was introduced to update the guidelines to “improve parity between parents and make it easier for them to support their families.” This new legislation was based upon the findings of the Minnesota Child Support Task Force, comprised of “parents, legislators, and child support professionals” with the requisite knowledge and interest to ensure the updated guidelines serve Minnesota families.
The new Minnesota child support guidelines have the following goals:
- Utilize updated economic data regarding the costs of child rearing for basic support calculations;
- Furnish updated “minimum basic support amounts;”
- Provide “a low-income adjustment for parents;”
- Increase the maximum parents’ combined incomes; and
- Fairly incorporate deductions for non-joint children, or children that are genetically related to one, but not both, parents, as well as those children that parents are “legally responsible [for] but do not have a child support order.”
The new guidelines aim to achieve these goals by first eliminating the use of antiquated data in child support calculations, and incorporating new data about the modern economic realities Minnesota families’ encounter. Second, the minimum basic support amounts were changed so that now, minimum amounts start at $50 for one child, with $10 increases for each additional child up to six children. In the case that a non-primary custodian has over six children, the judge will exercise discretion in setting a minimum basic support amount. For reference, prior to the updated guidelines, parents that were not the primary custodian paid $50 per month in minimum basic support for one to two children, $75 per month for three to four children, and $100 per month for five to six children. Third, the new guidelines include a “low-income adjustment for parents with combined incomes of $6,000 or less per month” to ensure that those who can afford the minimum basic support amounts are not ordered to further pay a “percentage of their income they can’t afford.” Fourth, the updated guidelines increase the maximum parental combined income (PICs) to $20,000 per month. The PICs is both parents’ monthly gross incomes added together, and is a significant number for determining child support. Lastly, the new guidelines incorporate non-joint children in more equitable manners than the previous guidelines. The new guidelines allow deductions for those non-joint children who a parent is currently not ordered to pay child support for, and increases the amount of non-joint children that can be considered for deductions from two, to an unlimited amount.
Along with updating the child support guidelines with these new objectives, the 2021 legislation eliminated interest on past due child support beginning on August 1, 2022. Therefore, parents with interest accrued on past due child support prior to August 1, 2022 are still obliged to pay this interest, but by eliminating interest moving forward, “parents [may] limit or reduce their debt and increase the likelihood of complete, timely payments for their children’s well-being.” Starting January 2023, parents with past due child support, otherwise known as arrears, may agree to a payment plan before their debt is reported to a credit agency, giving parents a fair opportunity to cut down their debt before other consequences follow. Eliminating interest on back due child support is significant, as those with arrears have reported their debt to be “insurmountable,” putting them in “perpetual debt, forcing some to “couch surf” or “live with roommates,” and causing some to consider working “jobs that paid them under the table” to diminish their monthly support payments. Overall, parents being in this amount of debt is not conducive to successful co-parenting and rearing of children. Further, and significantly, as of May 22, 2021, changes occurred for tribal communities. State courts were permitted to transfer child support cases that involved families with tribal affiliations to tribal court. This change respects tribal allegiances, allows tribal families to be served “closer to their communities,” and increases comprehension of child support orders for tribal families.
Ultimately, the hope in updating the child support guidelines, and all other corresponding changes to child support, is to center children and ensure they are adequately being cared for through monthly child support payments. Additionally, the new guidelines aim to alleviate economic stressors on low-income individuals and provide them realistic monthly child support payments that they can fulfill. Those currently ordered to pay monthly child support will not automatically have their orders modified under the new guidelines, although everyone owing arrears have automatically ceased being charged interest. Instead, those who desire to have new child support orders issued under these guidelines must bring a modification motion and the newly calculated amount must be “at least 20 percent and at least $75 per month higher or lower than the current support order” for a court to issue a modification, among other considerations. Therefore, whether the venerable objectives of the new child support guidelines are met must be determined as new orders and modifications are issued by courts around Minnesota in the new year.
**Sydnie Peterson is a Note & Comment Editor for Volume 41 of the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality.
 Jacob Shafer, New Child Support Guidelines in Minnesota Starting in 2023, La Crosse Trib. (Dec. 30, 2022), https://lacrossetribune.com/winona/news/local/new-child-support-guidelines-in-minnesota-starting-in- 2023/article_130d6cc6-885d-11ed-a3d3-c3c6b5e828eb.html.
 Eder Campuzano, Minnesota’s New Child Support Guidelines Aim to Help More Low-Income Parents Afford Payments, Star Trib. (Dec. 31, 2022), https://www.startribune.com/minnesotas-new-child-support-guidelines-aim-to-help-more-low-income-parents-afford-payments/600239894/.
 Campuzano, supra note 2.
 MN Dep’t of Human Servs., supra note 4.
 Basics of Calculating Minnesota Child Support, Mundahl Law PLLC (Feb. 2, 2015), https://www.mundahllaw.com/basics-calculating-minnesota-child-support/.
 Compare Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator, MN Dep’t of Human Servs. (prior to Jan. 1, 2023), https://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/2022/Calculator.aspx, with Minnesota Child Support Guidelines Calculator, MN Dep’t of Human Servs. (after Jan. 1, 2023), https://childsupportcalculator.dhs.state.mn.us/Calculator.aspx.
 Interest Charging on Past Due Support, MN Dep’t of Human Servs., https://mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/children-and-families/services/child-support/programs-services/interest-charging.jsp.
 Child Support Changes Reflect Modern Families’ Needs, MN Dep’t of Human Servs. (Aug. 13, 2021), https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MNDHS/bulletins/2ec9b7f.
 Campuzano, supra note 2.
 MN Dep’t of Human Servs., supra note 17.
 Minn. Stat. § 518A.39 subd. 2(b)(1).