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FAQs on Child Support COLA
|NOTE: Child support cases involving the County Child Support Office are often called IV-D cases and are handled in what is called the "Expedited Process (ExPro)." If the County is not involved in a child support case, different rules and procedures may apply.
Q: What is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
It is an increase in the amount of child support you will be required to pay every two years, due to increases in the cost of living. If the County Child Support Office is involved in handling your child support, the increase will take effect automatically on May 1st, unless you file a Motion to Stop COLA and show the Court that your gross income has not increased enough to justify the increase in basic support. If County Child Support Office is not involved in your child support case, then a different deadline may apply.
Q: What is the deadline for filing a Motion to Stop COLA?
If the County Child Support Office is involved in your child support case, you should serve and file your paperwork by the last business day in April. Court offices are closed on weekends, and Motion paperwork might not be accepted for filing after that last business day in April. A different deadline may apply if your case does not involve the County Child Support Office.
||Want to "do it yourself?"
Watch the child support video, which takes you step-by-step through completing the motion forms and filing them with the court.
Q: What do I need to complete my forms?
- Mailing address for the other party
- Copies of your tax returns for the last 3 years (e.g., 2008, 2009, 2010)
- Your current employment/income information
Q: Why do I have to provide my tax returns for the last 3 years?
Child Support Orders receive a COLA increase every 2 years. To stop the COLA increase from taking effect, you must prove that your gross income has not increased enough over the last few years to justify the increase in your child support order. Your tax returns will show whether your income has increased or decreased since the last COLA increase.
REMEMBER... If you are objecting to the COLA increase, YOU are the one who must prove that your income has not increased over the last few years. If you file a Motion without 3 years of tax returns, the court might not have enough information to grant your request.
Q: What if I do not have tax returns for the last 3 years?
If you filed taxes but did not keep copies, contact the IRS for copies of your return (or a transcript). If you did not file taxes, you could try to provide other proof of your gross income for the last 3 years, such as W-2 statements or paystubs. You may need to contact your current/former employers and ask for copies of W-2s or wage summaries. If you don't know what to provide, you may need legal advice.
Q: Is there a filing fee?
In Hennepin County, there is no filing fee if you have filed papers in your case before. If this is the first time you are filing papers in your case, you will be charged an initial filing fee. If you cannot afford the initial filing fee because you are low-income, you can fill out a Fee Waiver Application and ask a Judge to allow you to file without paying a fee.
Q: Can I use the Motion to Stop COLA to have my child support lowered?
No. The Motion to Stop COLA is used only to object to the COLA increase taking effect. If you need to ask to have your monthly child support obligation changed, you need to file a Motion to Modify Child Support. That form is available at Family Court Filing or online.
Q: Is help available to fill out these forms?
Court staff cannot fill out forms for you. If you have questions about the forms, brief help sessions are available during the month of April in Room #172 of the Family Justice Center. Self-Help Center staff will provide information about the forms at 10 a.m. sharp on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (right before the start of the regular child support workshop). You must have copies of your tax returns for the last 3 years, a photo ID, and the address of the other party (usually the other parent).
Q: Who must be served with copies of the COLA motion and how do I do this?
After you file your papers and get a court date, you must serve a copy to the other party and the Hennepin County Attorney's Office (if the County is involved in your case). If you are filing in person at the Family Justice Center, you can serve a copy for the County Attorney by dropping off the copy with the receptionist in the Child Support Office on the 1st floor. Staff at the filing counter will explain how to do this when you file your papers.
REMEMBER... Serving the other party must be done by having someone else (NOT YOU) either mail a copy to the other party OR hand-deliver a copy to him/her. Most people prefer to serve by mail.
Then that person (server) must fill out and sign the Affidavit of Service in front of a Notary Public or court clerk. You must make sure the completed Affidavit of Service is filed with the Court prior to the hearing. Carefully read the Steps on Service in the instructions that came with the forms packet.
Q: What if I do not have or cannot get the other party's mailing address?
You must have an address for the other party in order to serve them. If you do not know the address, you must make a reasonable effort to try to get it. You could call friends or relatives who might tell you the address, look in the phone book, or search on the Internet. A list of free websites to assist is available from the Self Help Center. See also How Can I Find Someone.
If you still cannot find their address and the County is involved in your case, you can fill out a Request for Child Support Office to Serve and ask the signing judge to give you permission to have Child Support Office mail the papers to the other party's last known address (if the County is involved in your case). You must see a signing judge to get this request approved. When you file your papers and get your copies from the main filing counter, you will bring the other party's copy to the Child Support office. Child Support staff will mail the papers to the last known address.
Q: When is the Signing Judge available?
If you need a fee waiver or need an Order for Child Support to serve the papers, you will need to see a signing judge. The Signing Judge for Hennepin County Family Court is available every morning from 8:30a - 9:30a and every afternoon from 1:30p - 2:00p., but not on Wednesdays.
NOTE: All public counters (include the Self Help Center and the Filing Counter) close to the public at 1:30p on Wednesdays, so there is no signing judge on Wednesday afternoon AND you cannot reach Court Administration to file papers or get a court date.
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