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How to Handle COLA
The cost of clothing, food, housing, transportation goes up over time, so most child support orders in Minnesota say that the amount of child support can be adjusted every two (2) years based on increases to the cost of living. Read your court order to see if it talks about a cost of living adjustment (COLA). It might be in "Appendix A" of your order. COLA increases do not usually happen automatically unless the county child support office is involved in collecting support.
How to Get a Cost of Living Adjustment
If the county child support office IS involved, then the county handles COLA increases, and usually sends Notices to the parties in the month of March. To stop a COLA increase, the parent who pays support must file a Motion with the court by the last business day in April, or else the COLA will take effect on May 1st. See MN Statute § 518A.75. Court offices are closed on weekends, and Motion paperwork might not be accepted for filing after the last business day in April, so it is best to file and serve as early as possible.
If the county support office is NOT involved in the case, and the parent who gets support wants a COLA increase, she or he must start the process by filing and serving legal forms that ask the court for a COLA increase.
Forms: If the county is NOT involved in the case, COLA Motion forms and instructions are online at Guide to Child Support and Spousal Maintenance Cost of Living Adjustments, published by the Office on the Economic Status of Women (MN Legislature).
How to Stop the Cost of Living Adjustment
If the parent who pays child support wants to stop the COLA increase, that parent must file a Motion with the court and prove that his or her gross income has not increased enough to cover the COLA. Gross income is defined in the law at MN Statute § 518A.29. Usually, the parent has to give the court the 3 most recent years of tax returns as proof. This proof must also be given to the other parent and the county if it is involved in the case.
To complete the forms, you must have:
1) mailing address for the other party,
2) copies of your tax returns for the last 3 years,
3) your current employment and income information, and
4) a copy of the “Notice for Cost of Living Adjustment” you got from the County Child Support Office or other party (file this with the court along with your Motion papers).
Forms to Stop COLA Increase
Choose the form packet below that best fits your situation:
FAQs on Cost of Living Adjustment
Q: Why do I have to provide my tax returns for the last 3 years?
Child Support Orders can get a COLA increase every 2 years. To stop the COLA increase from taking effect, you must file a Motion with proof to the court that your gross income has not increased enough over the last few years to justify the increase in child support. Your tax returns will show the court whether your income has increased or decreased. If you want to stop the COLA increase, YOU must prove that your income has not increased over the last few years. If you do not file 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). Be sure to ask how long it takes to receive the copies, because all of your papers MUST be filed by the last business day in April. 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?
Check with your local court administrator about whether there is a fee to file your motion. If you cannot afford the 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 total 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.
Q: Is help available to fill out these forms?
Court Staff cannot fill out forms for you or give you legal advice. Your County Child Support case worker may be able to help you with this process. If you have questions about what information is required in the forms or about court procedures, you may Contact Us with your questions.
Q: Who must be served with copies of the COLA motion and how do I do this?
After you get a hearing date and file your papers with the court, you must serve a copy to the other party and the County Attorney's Office (if the County is involved in the case).
Serving the other party can be done by having someone else (not you) mail a copy to the other party OR hand-deliver a copy to him/her. Most people prefer to serve by mail.
REMEMBER... You cannot serve the papers yourself. You must have someone else mail OR hand-deliver the copy to the other party. Then that person must fill out and sign the Affidavit of Service in front of a Notary Public or court clerk. You must make sure that the completed Affidavit of Service gets filed with the Court before the hearing. See Steps on Service in the Instructions: Motion to Stop COLA forms packet.
Q: What if I do not have or cannot get the other party's mailing address?
You must have the address of 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. See also How Can I Find Someone?.
If you still cannot find an address and the County Child Support Office is involved in your case, you can fill out a Request for Child Support to Serve to ask a judge to give you permission to have Child Support Office mail the papers to the other party's last known address. When you have completed your paperwork, bring it to Court Administration and they will tell you how it can be submitted to a judge. If the judge grants your request, you then bring a copy of your papers to the County Child Support Office and they will mail the papers to the last known address of the other party.
Q: When is the "signing judge" available?
Ask your local Court Administrator about when a judge is available to review your request to have the Child Support Office serve papers on the other party or your fee waiver application.
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