How is Child Support Determined and Paid in Minnesota?

The following article is intended as a brief explanation of how child support is determined under Minnesota law. In Minnesota, both parents are legally obligated to support their children to the extent of their financial means. However, in divorces, a custodial parent is presumed to make financial contributions to support their children from their financial means without any court order, while a non-custodial parent (called the obligor) will be ordered to contribute periodic support payments to the custodial parent (called the obligee) during the period of a child's minority. The actual use by the obligee of the obligor's contribution is not generally subject to any supervision or restriction by the Court.

Child Support Guidelines

In deciding the amount of child support to be paid, the Court relies on the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines, as stated in Section 518.551. The intent of the guidelines is to establish consistency in the amount of support paid by persons in similar financial circumstances. The guidelines are based on the number of children being supported and the net monthly income of the obligor. Although the Court may deviate above or below the guidelines, the amount of child support will usually be close to or at the specified guideline amount. The child support guidelines are applicable when sole physical custody is awarded to one party and the non-custodial parent/obligor is ordered to contribute to the obligee's household. Minnesota has an on-line calculator that can be used to estimate the amount of child support a court might order.

In order to use the Minnesota on-line child support calculator, the following information will be needed:

  • Each parent's gross monthly income (from all sources)
  • How many children live in each parent's home (do not count children who the parent has a court order to pay child support)
  • Any other child support orders for either parent
  • Any spousal maintenance orders for either parent
  • The amount of benefits from Social Security or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid to a joint child due to a parent's disability or retirement
  • The monthly cost for both medical and dental coverage
  • The amount of child care costs
  • The percentage, or amount of parenting time awarded in a court order
  • If the parent is incarcerated, the ability to pay/minimum basic support calculation does not apply

Calculation of Child Support

Overtime compensation may be used by the Court to determine child support if certain factors are present. If you or your spouse are working overtime hours on a consistent basis, ask us to explain how this may effect child support. Net Income is determined by subtracting certain deductions from the total (gross) monthly income, such as federal and state income taxes, social security deductions, reasonable pension deductions, dependent health insurance premiums, union dues, and other miscellaneous statutory deductions.

Most often, child support is paid by automatic wage withholding. Under this method, child support is deducted from the obligor's pay by the employer and remitted to the Support and Collections office of the county in which the proceeding is pending. The Support and Collections office thereafter remits payments to the obligee.

In joint physical custodial arrangements, child support is calculated differently, to account for both parties' participation in the expenses of the children while in their homes. In summary, the net incomes of both parties are determined and their respective guideline contributions are determined. By use of a formula, the Court then distributes the total guideline support between the parties in proportion to the time the children spend with each parent to balance the financial resources available to each parent. If you need more information on determining child support in this type of custodial arrangement, ask us to explain this area to you.

In addition to normal child support, both parties may be required to apportion work-related or school related day-care expenses. A formula is used to compute each party's contribution. Ask us to explain this area if you or your spouse are incurring day-care expenses.


While it is possible to estimate what a court might order as far as child support is concerned, the court is the final arbitrator of an award. The court is not required to award the amount indicated by the calculator, further the court is not bound by the child support guidelines. The court can take into account information and circumstances that make awarding a higher or lower amount as they see fit.