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Attorney Logo Child Support Establishment

How is a child support order established?
A child support order can be part of a separation, divorce, paternity action or domestic abuse order, or through a separate action to establish child support. The support order is issued by the court and sets the amount of money a parent must pay toward basic support, medical support, and child care. It can also be used to pay back public assistance received by the custodial parent. The amount is ordered on a per month basis for a specific dollar amount.

How is the amount of the child support determined?
Courts in the State of Minnesota use child support guidelines to decide what should be ordered for child support.  Child support consists of three parts: basic support, medical support, and child care support.

Effective on January 1, 2007, Minnesota adopted an income shares guidelines model that can be found in Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518A. Using this model, the court looks at the gross income or potential income of both parents, and also considers the expenses for non-joint children living in the home of the parent, child support orders for non-joint children not living in the home of the parent, spousal maintenance obligations, the receipt of social security or veteran’s benefits, an adjustment for court ordered parenting time, and the ability of the obligor to pay support. 

There is a web calculator available to the public that applies the income shares guidelines model and Minnesota laws.

When using the web calculator, please keep in mind that the County calculates support based on all of the information available to the County at the time it prepares the legal papers.  If you use the web calculator to calculate support based on different or newer information, you will obtain a different result.  It is your responsibility to inform the County and the court about this.

For more information about establishing support, see the Department of Human Services.

When and how does the amount of child support change?

Child support can only be changed through a court order or through a cost of living adjustment (COLA) addressed in the court order.  You can file a motion to modify support yourself or through an attorney, or you may request the County to review your order.  If it meets the County’s qualifications, the County will file a motion to modify support.

Request for Review

If you or the other parent receives services from the Child Support Enforcement Section, you will receive a notice of the right to request a review of your order once every three years.  You may contact the County based on that notice, or you may contact the County if you believe circumstances have changed that affect the support order.  Only the court can order a modification of support, but the County will review the order to determine whether or not the County will file a motion to modify the order.  


If the County does not agree to file a motion to modify the order, or if you do not want to wait for the County to file the motion, you may file a motion yourself or through an attorney.  There are pro se motion forms available at Minnesota Courts website

To request a modification, the County or a party must show that there has been a change of circumstances since the order was issued that make the terms of the support order unreasonable and unfair.  One or more of the following must be demonstrated to the court through evidence:

  • A substantial increase or decrease in gross income of one of the parents;
  • A substantial increase or decrease in the needs of the child;
  • Receipt of public assistance;
  • A change in the cost of living of one of the parents;
  • Extraordinary medical expenses of the child;
  • A change in the availability of health care coverage;
  • A substantial increase or decrease in health care coverage costs;
  • The addition of or substantial increase or decrease of work-related or education-related child care expenses; or
  • The emancipation of a child.


Cost of living adjustments (COLA) are addressed in court orders and are automatic unless specifically waived in a court order or unless the obligor files a motion to contest the COLA.  If you or the other parent receives child support services from a County  and if the COLA is not specifically waived in a court order, COLAs occur every two years, effective May 1 of the year of the increase, unless there is a modification that occurs during that two year time.  The COLA is determined based on the inflation rate during the two years prior to the increase based on a specific federal consumer price index.  Notices are sent out prior to the COLA with a form motion to request a contested hearing if the obligor does not agree with the COLA.  The form motion to contest must be filed with the court prior to May 1 of the year of the adjustment. 

More information about the COLA process you may be found at the Commission on the Economic Status of Women’s website.

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