Employment Presumptions in Minnesota for Child Support
Previous blog posts addressed the presumptions under Minnesota law regarding custody and parenting time. In addition to these important family law presumptions, when determining child support, Minnesota law presumes that a parent can be employed full-time, meaning 40 hours of work in a week. This presumption is consistent with the state’s interest in assuring that parents provide primary support for their child.
If the court finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed, underemployed, or employed on a less than full-time basis, the court must calculate child support based on a determination of that parent’s potential income. The court must use one of three methods to determine a parent’s potential income: (1) the parent’s likely pay based on his or her employment potential, recent work history, and occupational qualifications; (2) the actual amount of unemployment benefits or workers’ compensation benefits received by the parent; or (3) the amount the parent could earn working full-time at 150% of the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. Because the minimum wage in Minnesota was increased to $8.00 per hour on August 1, 2014, and is now higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the state amount applies. Additionally, the state minimum wage is set to increase on August 1, 2015, to $9.00 per hour and again on August 1, 2016, to $9.50 an hour.
Although Minnesota law presumes that a parent can be employed full-time, there are three instances in which a parent is not considered to be voluntarily unemployed, underemployed, or employed on a less than full-time basis. The parent must show that his or her unemployment, underemployment, or employment of less than full-time: (1) is temporary and will ultimately lead to an increase in the parent’s income; (2) represents a genuine career change that outweighs the adverse effect of the parent’s diminished income on the child; or (3) is because the parent is physically or mentally incapacitated or the parent is incarcerated, unless the incarceration is due to non-payment of child support.
If a parent stays at home to care for the child subject to the child support order, the court may consider five factors when considering whether the stay-at-home parent is voluntarily unemployed, underemployed, or employed on a less than full-time basis. The court may consider: (1) the parties’ parenting and child care arrangements before the child support case; (2) the stay-at-home parent’s employment history, recency of employment, earnings, and the availability of jobs in the community for an individual with the parent’s qualifications; (3) the relationship between employment-related expenses (child care and transportation costs) and the income the stay-at-home parent could receive from available jobs in the community with the parent’s qualifications; (4) the child’s age and health, including whether the child is physically or mentally disabled; and (5) the availability of child care providers. These factors do not apply, however, if the parent stays at home solely to care for a child that is not a child of both parties to the child support case (referred to as a “nonjoint child”).
Finally, a couple things to note. One, if a parent is a recipient of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), potential income will not be attributed to that parent. And two, a parent is considered to be employed on a full-time basis if he or she works in an industry, trade, or profession in which most employers use a normal work week of more or less than 40 hours. An example of a profession with a normal work week of less than 40 hours is nursing, where it is common to work three 12-hour shifts in a week and for this to be considered full-time by the employer.
It is always a good idea to have a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney like the attorneys at Jeddeloh & Snyder PA represent your interests as a parent, including in child support matters. Based on the presumption that a parent can be employed full-time and the number of things to consider when a parent is not, it is especially important to have an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney represent you in child support and other family law matters.
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