As the saying goes, the only thing you can depend on is change.
Most divorcing parents in Minnesota have several years of co-parenting ahead of them before their children turn eighteen, and it's reasonable to expect that over time things will change, children's needs and parents' resources among them.
A settlement agreement or divorce judgment that goes into effect at the time you divorce may reflect the circumstances of your family at that time. But in the years to come, it is likely that you, or your ex-spouse, may need to modify child support. Here's a primer on when modification is appropriate, and what you need to do.
There are two ways in which you can modify your Minnesota child support order. The first and simplest is to file a stipulation with the court. A stipulation is simply an agreement between you and your ex-spouse to change child support. The court is not required to approve your stipulation, but it is more likely to if you and your ex are able to explain within the stipulation why the change is in your child's best interests.
After you file your stipulation, a magistrate or judge will review it. In most situations, you will not have to appear at a hearing regarding your stipulation. Once the stipulation is approved, it will be signed by the court and your agreement will become a court order.
One thing to be aware of: if you, your ex, or your child receives public assistance, any stipulation must be approved by the County Child Support Office before it can be filed with the court.
Alternately, you can choose to file a motion directly with the court to modify your child support order. Bear in mind that in order to modify child support via motion, you must demonstrate that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that renders the previous child support order unfair or unreasonable.
Examples of changes in circumstances that might warrant a modification include one parent losing a job, or a child having extraordinary medical expenses. Whether a change in circumstances is substantial is not just a matter of opinion. There are a number of ways you can show the court that the change is substantial. For instance, a change is substantial if, by calculating child support under the current circumstances, child support would change by at least twenty percent and be at least $75 higher or lower per month than under the previous calculation.
Trying to modify your child support is one of those things that you can technically do without an attorney, but for which an attorney's help is recommended. An experienced Minnesota child support attorney is going to be familiar with the courts and the evidence that needs to be presented to show that you have experienced a substantial change in circumstances, so having a skilled attorney increases your chances of success (and will probably decrease your stress, too).
Considering what you stand to lose or gain over several more years of child support payments under your existing order, you may find that your attorney fee for this process is worth every penny. We invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation. We look forward to working with you.