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Cost Of Living Adjustment in Minnesota (COLA)

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What is Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA)?


In the context of family law, the Cost of Living Adjustment, commonly known as COLA (just like Coke!), is a critical financial mechanism designed to ensure that payments like child support and spousal maintenance keep pace with inflation. This adjustment helps maintain the purchasing power of these payments over time, ensuring that the support provided genuinely reflects the cost of living changes.

We’ve all heard about inflation lately, well COLA is the way that the state of Minnesota deals with inflation, rather than call it that or just use an inflation calculator they look at the COLA and the Consumer price index (more on that below).

Some folks do question the need for the COLA adjustment, and they think that if they are paying, say, $500 a month for child support, that’s what they should pay until the child graduates! But, as we talked about above, inflation means every year that $500 is worth less and less. That’s why they adjust it.

When is the COLA?

So now we know what COLA is let’s look at when it goes into affect. By Minnesota statute, COLA is adjusted every two years.  If the county is involved in either collection or if it is an IV-D case based on assistance, COLA will be automatically calculated, and the person receiving the COLA will not have to do anything.  The person paying the COLA will be notified by mail, usually the end of March and will have until the end of April to obejct to it or it will to into effect. 

So, to simplify all that, in Minnesota childmony cases, support and Ali the COLA kicks in every two years, almost always going up, but it can (at least theoretically if we get deflation, meaning the dollar is worth more every year and if wages stay the same, it’s like raise, while good stay the same relative to ) it can go down.

How Much is the COLA?

The cost-of-living adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This index measure the increased costs of things like food, clothing, gasoline and shelter. The (CPI) has increased much more this past year than in recent years. The CPI is a measure of the average change in prices over time in a fixed market basket of goods and services.  

The actual percentage change really varies year by year and has all the way down to 3% 20 years ago to nearly 13% in 2023.

When you get your notice, the county will calculate exaclty how much your child support or alimony is going up, it will list the CPI’s and percentage as well as the new monthly amount that you’ll either pay or be getting paid by your ex.

A fun side note about COLA (ok maybe not that fun but you should know it) is that the ACTUAL cost of living you have, say you moved from Hennepin County to Blue Earth County and thus the cost of living and housing and all that has gone down, it pretty irrelevant.

The same issue is true if you try and say the COLA (which is region-specific in the United States) is different in your part of the state. You can’t argue that while the COLA is 13% in St. Paul, it’s only 5% in Rochester! We are stuck with that percentage increase, and the only real way is to file the COLA objection as discussed below.

Stopping the COLA

In order to stop a Minnesota COLA from going into effect, you have to do a few things, particularly, you have to prove there has not been a sufficient cost-of-living or other increase in income to allow for an adjustment in child support. Usually, this means that there is no increase in your pay (or your ex’s).

Generally, you prove this through paystubs and taxes.  If you can show a paystub from a year ago and that it has not changed in a year or two is by far the easiest way to prove that the COLA is unfair. The next way you can fight a a COLA is trying to argue that your expenses are so much higher that even though you perhaps did get a raise, it’s still not enough and it makes the COLA unfair. This is possible, but to be honest I’ve not seen that actualy work in my time as a divorce lawyer.

How to actually stop the COLA?

You learned what the COLA is, when the COLA is implemented andand how it’s calculated. Now let’s look at exaclty what do to try and stop the COLA (or if you are on the other end, what your ex has to do try and stop the COLA). The key that you will need to file an objection to the COLA increase before May 1 of the year it goes into effect.  That means to stop the 2023 COLA  participants must file the objection with the court no later than April 28, 2023, which is the last business day before May 1, 2023.   

there are some forms you can look at on the Mncourts.gov cite, but an objection has to be done properly and filed with the court. A simple text note or even email isn’t going to count as a legally proper objection to the COLA.

If we look at the law, specifically   Minn. Stat. § 518A.29, you will see there are two ways to avoid a COLA:

1.         Agreement and Order to Waive (or Partially Waive) COLA:

  • Both parents may agree to waive  the cost-of-living adjustment using the Agreement and Order to Waive (or Partially Waive) Cost-of-Living Adjustment  form and instructions available on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.
  • The county attorney’s office must approve the agreement (if it’s a IV-D case), so it is important to contact your county child support office at least a week ahead of the effective date of the adjustment.
  • The county child support office may ask for proof of income, such as tax forms for the last three years, from the parent who owes child support, this is usually only done on a IV-D case.
  • The court must approve the agreement and sign the proposed order.

2.         Motion to Stop COLA with Court:

  • The parent who owes child support must file the Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA  with the court administrator no later than the last business day before the adjustment effective date. The parent must also serve copies by first-class mail to the other parent. If the county is involved, you will need to serve them as well.
  • If the parent who owes child support properly serves and files a motion asking to stop the adjustment, the child support office will wait for the court decision before adjusting the child support. If the court orders a cost-of-living adjustment, it will take effect on the date originally listed in the cost-of-living notice (backdating it).

Conclusion on Minnesota COLA

There you go! hopefully, this was helpful article on MN COLA, without too much fluff or lawyer speak. I’ve put together a few more resources below that shoudl be able to put you on the path to dealing with COLA.

Here are some helpful free for Child Support COLA forms:

Minnesota Judicial Branch – GetForms (mncourts.gov)

There are two groups of COLA forms, so make sure the correct docs are used:

  1. Expedited Process: Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Forms
  2. District Court: Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Forms

Hey there! Glad you’re here, diving deep into the intricacies of Minnesota cost of living adjustments with us. Just a quick heads up: while we aim to keep our blog posts as enlightening and engaging as possible, they’re not a substitute for professional legal advice from good MN family lawyer. Think of this blog as the appetizer to your main course of legal consultation! Our articles are here to guide and inform you, but when it comes to making decisions about your legal situation, it’s best to sit down with your lawyer. So, enjoy the read, get inspired, and when you’re ready for the big decisions, feel free to reach out to a qualified attorney (May I make the suggestion it’s one of us at KH Law?) to get advice for your specific circumstances. Happy reading!

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