So you got divorced and started paying child support to your ex.  But a few years later, you were laid off, making it difficult to pay the same amount as before.  What happens to that child support order now? Can you change it? Do you still have to pay the same amount of child support?

In Minnesota, child support orders can be modified when a “substantial change” happens to make the terms of the order unreasonable and unfair.  That could be things like a big increase or decrease in the income of the person paying support, a big increase or decreasee in the financial needs of the child, a change in the cost of living to either the parent paying the support or the parent receiving the support, or extraordinary medical expenses for the child.

If you are the parent paying support (what is called the “Obligor”) and you want to try to modify the support order, you will have to show both a substantial change in circumstances and that this change makes the order unfair in its current form. This is an important distinction because if only one of those two elements is met, you can’t modify the child support order.

What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances?  In Minnesota the law is very clear,In terms of income, a 20% change will must occur in order for the change be considered substantial.  If the parent paying support wants to decrease the amount of child support owed because of a 20% decrease in income, the decrease in income must not be the fault of that parent.  If you are in this position, you should talk to an attorney about seeking modification of the support order sooner rather than later, because the general rule is that modification of child support may only be made retroactive to the date of service of a motion—that is, the start of court proceedings for modification.  To m make matters even more confusing this change in income must also cause a $75 increase or decrease in the amount of child support paid.

What if you are the non-custodial parent and are paying child support, but your ex-spouse moves?  You may be entitled to a reduction in the amount of child support you pay if you’re going to have to pay more to be able to spend time with your child.  This is especially true if you end up paying high transportation expenses, such as for frequent air travel for both you and your child.

Some significant changes in your life may still not be considered the kind of substantial change that would support a child support modification.  For example, if the person paying support has a child with their new partner, this is generally not grounds for support modification.  However, if you are involved in court proceedings for a modification on some other ground, the court may consider the birth of the child as a factor in determining what your new support obligation should be.  And if either parent remarries, their new spouse’s income cannot be counted in determining the amount of child support.

Information obtained in may contain knowledgable content about Minnesota Family Law that may be considered beneficial to some; however, in no way should this website or its contents be considered legal advice. Mr. Kohlmeyer is a Minnesota licensed Attorney and cannot provide legal services or guidance to those outside of Minnesota. If you wish to retain Mr. Kohlmeyer as your Attorney in your Family Law matter, contact 507-205-9736.