There are many flaws with the child
support systems in America. Minnesota is no exception.
PROBLEM 1 - MONEY TALKS
One dirty secret
of the child support system is that it is incentivized by
How Does it Work?
The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 was designed to reduce budget
deficits by providing states with government funding for
recovering welfare costs. This included within its scope
child support since child support is recovered by the state to
pay any welfare benefits provided to a custodial parent.
It unintentionally also included child support paid by those who
did not receive welfare benefits.
Based on recent statistics, it is estimated that the federal
government provides $4.2 billion in grants to states for their
child support collection services. The payments to the
states are based on a percentage of their child support
collections operating costs. As a result, the larger the child
support enforcement costs, the greater the federal funding. Of
course, the best way to increase the size of the system is
make sure that the state is collecting as much child support as
possible. The end result in Minnesota, and other states,
is that state collection of child support is mandatory unless:
- No public assistance is provided to the custodial parent
on behalf of the children; and
- both parents elect to waive that withholding.
Even more compelling, the state also appears to have an
incentive to avoid joint physical custody arrangements where
less child support is likely to be exchanged.
PROBLEM 2 - CHILD SUPPORT UNRELATED TO FINANCIAL NEED
Child support is not tied to the necessary financial needs of
Child support guidelines were created to provide some
uniformity to child support calculations. However, those
guidelines often provide financial incentives to custodial
parents to have serial children with multiple child support
Under Minnesota's pre-2007 child support guidelines, a
non-custodial parent would pay child support that is usually 25%
of of that parent's net income. If that individual is a father
and he has two children with the same mother, he would pay
30% of his net monthly income. If, however, he has a second
child with a second mother, he would pay another 25% of his net
income after deducting the first obligation. Similarly a
mother with three children from three different fathers could
receive 25% of the net income from each father. See the
A simple review of child support awards in absurdly
unbalanced cases also supports the conclusion that child support
guidelines often ignore reason. In 1995, the actor Jim
Carrey agreed to pay $10,000 a month in child support for their
daughter, Jane. Recently, his ex wife, Melissa has asked the
courts to increase that amount. Similarly, a court
recently awarded the mother of the child of actor Matt LeBlanc a
staggering $15,000 per month.
PROBLEM 3 - DEADBEATS CREATED BY SYSTEM
WHERE RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION IS NOT ALLOWED
Under the law, a court cannot modify a child
support obligation retroactively. As a result, parents
that fall on unanticipated hard times may find themselves
falling behind in child support. Even when a motion is
filed, the hearing may be scheduled many months into the future.
In the interim, the unemployed parent may be labeled a deadbeat,
have their driver's license suspended, and incur judgments and
interest on judgment for any arrears.
One of the most compelling examples of this problem
occur with the National Guard. With war
in Iraq and Afghanistan, increasing numbers of Minnesota troops
are activated and reserve units deployed. Many of
those troops, unfamiliar with the system or how to modify
support in the short term are unable to have child support
hearings held before they are deployed. With their reduced
wages, all too often they fall behind in child-support payments.
Once they fall behind, they incur penalties and interest as well
has having Judgments docketed against them. Even
given their special circumstances, there is no forgiveness for
There must be major reform in the child support industry.
Child support guidelines must be modified to reflect
contributions for actual child support expenses rather than
based on a rigid grid formula that is in place today. The
laws must also allow some flexibility for modifying child
support, even retroactively when special circumstances exist.
Perhaps the best solution would be legislation that creates a
presumption for joint physical custody thereby eliminated or
significantly reducing child support awards.
For a consultation call (612) 240.8005.