Below is an overview of child support in MN. Read through the Definitions tab for commonly used words and our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for more information about child support in MN.
What is child support?
Child support is court-ordered payments for the financial support of a child. Under MN law, a child has the right to be financially supported by both parents.
Who can ask for child support?
A parent: Generally, when parents do not live together, they can ask the court for an order establishing a set amount for child support.
Another person: Someone who has third-party custody of a child, such as a relative, may also ask the court to order one or both parents to pay child support.
County Attorney's Office: The local county attorney's office can start a child support case when unmarried parents are not living together and either parent receives public assistance for the child.
For more information about child support, visit the FAQs tab.
Past due child support.
Payments for the costs of a child's housing, food, clothing, transportation, education, and other expenses to care for the child.
An individual who is either: under the age of 18; under the age of 20 but still attending high school; or incapable of supporting themselves because of a physical or mental condition.
Money a parent pays for the care, support, and education of their child. It may include a monthly court-ordered amount for basic support, child care support, and medical support.
Child Support Guidelines
A formula used to calculate support obligations. Child support is based on factors such as the income of both parents, the number of children, and the availability and cost of medical support.
Child Care Support
Payments for child care (daycare) costs when parents go to work or school.
Child Support Magistrate
The judicial officer who generally makes decisions in a child support hearing in the expedited process (also called Ex Pro). A child support magistrate has the same authoriy as a district court judge but is limited to making decisions about child support.
Failure to obey an order of the court. In a child support case, the obligee or child support agency can ask the court to find an obligor in contempt of court for not making child support payments. If the court finds the obligor in contempt, the court may order the obligor to serve a jail sentence unless the obligor begins to meet certain conditions, such as making regular support payments.
An increase in child support and/or spousal support (called “spousal maintenance”) every two years due to inflation.
The adult who has primary care and control of a minor child.
When an individual is no longer considered a “child” under the law and therefore does not need child support. See the definition of “child” above.
A special process for handling child support cases in MN, which is also sometimes called “Ex Pro.” This process must be used if one parent receives public assistance for the child or the local child support office is involved with collection of child support payments.
The deduction of the current basic support, child-care support, medical support, and/or spousal support obligation and arrears, if any, from an obligor's paychecks or other sources of income.
The biological or adopted child of both parents in the child support proceeding.
The amount of support ordered to provide health and dental insurance for a child, contributions towards Medical Assistance, or payments toward unreimbursed/uninsured medical and dental expenses.
A change to a child support or spousal maintenance order because of at least one of the following conditions:
- substantially increased or decreased earnings of a party;
- substantially increased or decreased need of a party or the child;
- receipt of public assistance;
- a change in the cost of living for either party;
- extraordinary medical expenses of the child;
- substantial increase or decrease in work-related or education-related child care expenses; or
- emancipation of the child (see above for definition).
The parent who does not have primary care or control of a minor child.
The legal child of one parent, but not both parents. Stepchildren are not considered non-joint children.
A person who receives child support.
A person who pays child support.
The calculation used by the court to determine how much money one parent could be making if they were working full-time.
Uninsured Medical Expenses
Health-related expenses incurred while the child is not covered by a health plan or public coverage.
Unreimbursed Medical Expenses
Health-related expenses not covered by the child's insurance, such as deductibles, co-payments, orthodontia, prescription eyeglasses, and contacts. These do not include the cost of insurance premiums or over-the-counter medications.
How is child support calculated?
Child support includes three parts:
Basic support - payments for the costs of a child's housing, food, clothing, transportation, education, and other expenses to care for the child.
Medical support - providing health and dental insurance, payments for the costs of health and dental insurance that the other parent provides, and payments for uninsured or unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
Child care support - payments for child care (day care) costs when parents go to work or school.
NOTE: Buying gifts or other things for the child does NOT count as child support.
MN law uses a method of calculating child support called "Income Shares." The law has child support guidelines that use both parents' gross incomes, the number of children, and the cost of raising a child at various income levels. See Minn. Stat. § 518A.34.
TIP! Use the online Child Support Calculator to estimate the amount of child support owed in your case. The calculator gives you worksheets that you can print after you enter your information.
The law presumes that both parents can or should work and earn an income. The Income Shares formula considers this "potential income" as a factor in determining support.
By law, if the parties do not provide specific details about their income, the court will set child support based on other available evidence, including past work experience and/or testimony of the other parent. The court can also set a minimum amount provided for in the law, including calculating monthly income by assuming that the parent is capable of working 30 hours per week and earning 100% of the current federal minimum wage or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.
How can I get child support?
A court may issue an order for child support in different situations, including:
A good option is to use the services of your County Child Support Office
to establish and/or enforce child support. You are not required to use the county service unless the parties or child get public assistance
To ask for child support, you can fill out an application
and pay a low, one-time fee to get services. Any parent, guardian, or third-party custodian may apply for help from the local county Child Support Office to get a child support order and collect payments. For more information, see Child Support Services: Inexpensive, comprehensive and helpful (DHS-4116) (pdf 788kb)
, a booklet provided by MN Dept. of Human Services.
Generally, to get a child support order in MN, the custodial parent and the child must have lived in the state for at least 180 days (6 months) before starting the case. See Minn. Stat. § 518C.201
for information about non-residents.
What is public assistance?
Public assistance refers to benefits from a state or federal program. A child support case is started by the County Attorney’s Office on behalf of the child support agency when a child receives public assistance. Public assistance programs include, but are not limited to, the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), Child Care Assistance, Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare, and IV-E Foster Care services. For more information, visit the Department of Human Services (DHS)
MN County Child Support Offices
will work with both parents to:
Cases that involve the county child support office are called “IV-D” cases. Generally, IV-D cases are heard in the “expedited process” (also called "Ex Pro") by a child support magistrate. Sometimes, IV-D court cases are handled by a judge or referee if the case includes issues that a magistrate cannot decide (such as divorce).
What is the "expedited process" (“Ex Pro”)?
Federal law requires each State to have an expedited child support process (also called Ex Pro) for hearing certain types of child support cases. The expedited process has specific Court Rules
and forms. Usually, a child support magistrate and not a judge hears Ex Pro cases. See Minn. Stat. § 484.702
for more information.
Child support cases can be handled in the expedited process if:
Ex Pro cases can involve situations where a party wants to establish (start), modify (change), or enforce an order for any part of child support, including the basic support amount, medical care, or child-care.
In limited cases, a court order for spousal maintenance can be heard in the expedited process if it is combined with an order for child support.
I live in another state, but I received paperwork for a MN court child support case. Why is this?
When a county child support office starts a child support case against an obligor, they can use what is called “long arm jurisdiction.” Long arm jurisdiction is the authority the court has over a person that is not a resident of the state of MN. This allows the child support agency to collect child support from obligors that live in other states.
Is spousal maintenance the same thing as child support?
No. Spousal maintenance, formerly called alimony, is the amount of money one party is ordered to pay in a legal separation or divorce case for the support of a current or former spouse to help them meet their living expenses. This is different from child support, which is financial support for the joint child(ren) you have with the other parent. Spousal maintenance can only be ordered in legal separation or divorce cases.
What if I’m afraid the other parent will harm me or my child if a child support case is started?
If you have concerns about what the other parent might do to you or the child if a child support case is started, talk to your county child support worker about making a good cause claim. Good cause exemptions are granted when a parent or child may be in danger of physical or emotional harm by the other parent if the county tries to determine parentage or establish or enforce a child support order.
If the other parent is threatening or physically hurting you or the child, preventing you from calling 911, or otherwise harming you or your child, you may be able to get an Order for Protection
against them. See the Domestic Abuse & Harassment Help Topic
page for more information.
How do I modify (change) a support order?
A parent can ask the court to change an existing child support order by filing either a stipulation (agreement) or a Motion to Modify Support. See Minn. Stat. § 518A.39
for the law on changing a child support order.
Generally, the court can change the basic support amount if the new amount is at least $75 and 20% higher or lower than your current order. NOTE:
If you ask the court to recalculate your basic child support, the amount could go up, go down, or stay the same in the new court order. You can estimate the amount of child support the court might order using the MN Child Support Guidelines Calculator
Stipulation (agreement) to Modify Support
If all parties (including the Child Support Office in IV-D cases) agree to change support and to sign a written agreement, they can file a stipulation and a proposed order with the court. In the stipulation, the parties should explain how the change in child support is in the best interest of the child(ren).
The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish stipulation and proposed order forms. You might find sample forms at your local law library
, or you could talk with a lawyer
to get help drafting a stipulation. You are strongly encouraged to talk with a lawyer before signing a stipulation.
Motion to Modify Child Support
Either parent can file a motion to change child support by filling out and filing a Motion to Modify Child Support, either in the expedited process
or in District Court
depending on the case. The party filing the motion must prove that there has been a change in circumstances that makes the current support order unreasonable or unfair. See Minn. Stat. § 518A.39
What is a parenting expense adjustment and does it apply to my child support order?
A parenting expense adjustment is a reduction in basic child support given to a parent because they are paying for the child’s needs during their parenting time. On August 1, 2018, a new law changed how the court adjusts the basic child support amount for parenting time expenses to be based on the number of overnights with the child(ren) each parent was given in their court order. See Minn. Stat. § 518A.36
. You may find it helpful to review the Calculating the Number of Overnights flowchart
Child support orders issued before August 1, 2018 have not changed automatically because of this law, and it only affects parents who have court-ordered parenting time. You can use the flowchart
to help you determine whether the parenting expense adjustment applies to your child support calculation. If you have a court order that states the number of overnights and you would like to have the amount of your child support recalculated, you will need to file a Motion to Modify Child Support.
If you have a court order for parenting time but the number of overnights is not clear (for example, the order says reasonable parenting time or parenting time as agreed by the parties, or parenting time is reserved), you can file a Motion for Parenting Time Assistance
asking the court for an order with a more specific schedule. You could then consider filing a Motion to Modify Child Support.
If you do not have a court order for parenting time, you may be able to file a Petition to Establish Custody and Parenting Time
asking the court to issue an order establishing custody and a specific parenting time schedule. You could then consider filing a Motion to Modify Child Support.
See the MN Department of Human Services FAQ
for more information.
What if I disagree with an Expedited Process court order?
The forms and information below apply to expedited process (Ex Pro) child support cases only. If you disagree with a District Court child support order, it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer
How to Correct Clerical Mistakes
How to Ask for Review of a Recent Order
After a hearing, the court will serve the parties (typically by mail) with a document called "Notice of Entry of Order" along with a copy of the Order. If the case involves the county child support office and you want the magistrate or judge who issued the order to:
- amend (change) the terms of the order,
- look at new evidence, or
- grant a new hearing based on errors made by the court,
you could file a Motion for Review (ex pro)
. This form can be used to ask for just a review, or for a review combined with correcting clerical mistakes. You may NOT use these forms to bring other issues to the court.
The Motion for Review must be filed with the court and served on the other parties within 21 days from when the court served the Notice of Entry of Order. Add 3 days if you got the Notice from the court by mail. See Family Court Rules 377.02 and 354.04
The other parent can file forms for a Response to a Motion to Review (Ex Pro).
Appeal to the MN Court of Appeals
A final child support order may be appealed to the MN Court of Appeals
as explained in Family Court Rule 378
. However, knowing when an order is "final" and if you meet the requirements for appeal requires legal analysis so you are strongly encouraged to talk with a lawyer
. The appeal process must be started within 60 days of the date the court administrator serves the Notice of Filing of Order or Notice of Entry of Judgment on the parties. See MN Rules of Appellate Procedure
Appealing a case to the Court of Appeals can be very complicated, so you should get help from a lawyer
. Court employees cannot give advice on how to handle your appeal. Find more information in the Appeals Help Topic
What is a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
Because the cost of clothing, food, housing, and transportation goes up over time, most child support orders in MN say that the amount of child support can be adjusted every 2 years based on increases to the cost of living. If you have a child support order, you can read your court order to see if it talks about a cost-of-living adjustment. 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 do I ask for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
If the county child support office is involved in collecting support in your case, then the county handles any COLA increases. Formal notices are usually sent to the parties in the month of March.
If the county support office is not involved in the case, and the parent who gets support wants to ask the court for a COLA increase, they must file a motion with the court. The MN Judicial Branch does not publish forms for requesting a COLA increase. Sample forms are available in a booklet called A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments
, published by the Office on the Economic Status of Women (MN Legislature), but it is a good idea to talk with a lawyer
about your case.
How can I ask to stop a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)?
If you pay child support and want to stop a COLA increase, you must file a Motion to Stop COLA with the court. This would either be in the expedited process
(Ex Pro) or in District Court
, depending on your case. You must prove that your gross income, as defined in the law at Minn. Stat. § 518A.29
, has not increased enough to cover the COLA. Usually, you would need to give the court your tax returns from the last three years as proof. This proof must also be given to the other parent and the county if it is involved in the case.
For more information about a Motion to Stop COLA, review the instructions included in the packet of forms. You are also encouraged to watch the video series called How to File a Motion to Stop a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
, which walks you through all of the steps for filing a Motion to Stop COLA.
In Ex Pro cases, there are very specific time requirements for filing a Motion to Stop COLA. As explained in the instructions, the motion must be served before May 1st
. If you file after April 30, the increase will automatically be applied by the Child Support Agency on May 1st. The court will later determine whether the increase is appropriate. The only way to make sure the increase does not happen before your motion is heard by the court is to serve and file the Motion to Stop COLA by April 30th
Can I use the Motion to Stop COLA to have my monthly child support payment 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 will need to file a Motion to Modify Child Support
Is help available to fill out child support forms?
If you have a County Child Support case worker
, they may be able to help you with completing child support forms. If you have questions about filling out the forms, what information is required in the forms, or about court procedures, you can contact a Self-Help Center
with your questions.
How do I enforce a MN child support order?
The enforcement process can be complicated. There may be more than one way for you to try to enforce child support. Talk to a lawyer
if you are not sure which enforcement option is best for you.
The MN Dept. of Human Services
is the state agency that regulates child support, and each county has a support and enforcement office. If your case involves the county support office, you can contact your caseworker to ask for help with enforcing support. If the county is not already involved in your case, you can apply for their services
One enforcement option is a Motion for Contempt of Court
. If a party repeatedly fails to obey an order to pay child support, the other party can ask the judge to hold them in contempt of court. A judge can find a party in contempt of court if they were ordered to pay support, knew about the order, and have refused to pay without good reason. A person in contempt of court is typically given a chance to correct the problem (“cure the contempt”). If the parent does not do what the judge orders to correct the problem, the person can be put in jail until they are willing to follow the order.
Because jail time can be ordered for contempt, there are special rules to make sure all parties are treated fairly. Filing a Motion for Contempt of Court
is not a quick or easy process. The other party can respond by filing a Response to Motion for Contempt
Review the law on contempt of court
for more information.
Other enforcement options (by statute) include:
NOTE: The MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish forms for license suspensions or motor vehicle liens. You may be able to get more information at a law library
or by talking to a lawyer
, or you can apply for help with these enforcement tools from your county child support office.
How do I collect unpaid child support?
The collection process can be complicated. There might be more than one way to try to collect support in your case. Read below for more information and get advice from a lawyer
to learn which option is best for you. Your county child support office
may also be able to help with collecting unpaid support.
Can I docket a judgment for unpaid child support?
Missed child support payments can be entered and formally docketed as judgments in order to allow for different types of collection procedures to be used, such as levies and garnishments. A judgment is good for ten (10) years from the date of entry of judgment. You can collect your judgment at any time during the 10-year period. A judgment can be renewed if it is not satisfied (paid) within 10 years. See the Judgments Help Topic
for more information on collection procedures.
Follow the steps below to enter and docket a child support judgment.
STEP 1: Gather information
To enter and docket a judgment, you will need:
STEP 2: Fill out forms
- A copy of the current order(s) setting or changing the amount of child support that the other parent is supposed to pay;
- Information about the parent ordered to pay child support (obligor), including their name, address, and employer's name and address (IMPORTANT! You must have a mailing address for the obligor in order for the court to accept your forms. If you don't know where the obligor is, review the Find Someone Help Topic); AND
- Information about past due support, such as payment due date(s) and total amounts still owed. If the Child Support Office is involved in your case, it is helpful to get a "payment history printout" from your caseworker that shows payments made since the date of the Order.
Complete the following forms:
Notice of Intent to Enter and Docket Child Support Judgment (CSD702)
Affidavit of Default of Child Support Judgment (CSD703)
STEP 3: Serve forms on the other parties
One copy of each form, current support order(s), and the payment history printout must be served on the obligor (and the County Attorney if the Child Support Office is involved in the case).
IMPORTANT! Someone other than you must serve the paperwork. Service can be by first-class mail OR hand delivery. The person who mails or hand-delivers the documents to the obligor (and the County Attorney if the Child Support Office is involved in the case) must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a party in your case.
STEP 4: Complete Affidavit of Service
The person who served your paperwork must complete and sign an Affidavit of Service
under penalty of perjury. If both the obligor and the County Attorney must be served, the server should complete a separate Affidavit of Service for the County Attorney.
STEP 5: File paperwork with the Court
File all of your completed forms with court administration in the county where your child support case is located.
Why are my past due child support payments are showing up on my credit report?
The child support agency automatically reports overdue child support to credit bureaus monthly. The credit bureau report may limit or deny credit until you make child support payments. In addition to credit bureau reporting, there are other enforcement remedies the County can use to collect unpaid child support such as:
- federal criminal prosecution
- federal tax refund offset
- financial institution data match
- income withholding
- passport denial
- state tax refund offset
- student grant holds
- suspension of licenses (for example, driver's, occupational, or recreational)
How do I collect unpaid medical and dental expenses?
How do I contest unpaid medical and dental expenses?
If you are not able to reach an agreement with the other parent or the County on the payment of the unreimbursed/uninsured health care expenses, you could file a Motion to Contest Unreimbursed/Uninsured Health Care Expenses
. You can use this motion if you have received:
- a Request for Payment and Notice of Intent to Collect Unreimbursed Health Care Expenses from the other parent;
- a Notice of Motion and Affidavit to Collect Unreimbursed Health Care Expenses from the other parent; or
- a notice from the County Child Support Office about collection of unreimbursed or uninsured health care expenses,
and you believe that the amount is wrong or you want a monthly payment schedule.
If you are not sure how to proceed, talk to a lawyer
about other options for contesting unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
My driver's license was suspended for unpaid child support. How do I get it reinstated?
If the County Child Support Office is involved in your case and your driver's license has been suspended for not paying child support, you may be able to enter into a payment agreement with the Child Support Office. See the law at Minn. Stat. §§ 518A.65
If you are unable to enter into a payment agreement with the County Child Support Office, you can file a Motion to Reinstate Driver’s License
to ask the court to review the suspension.
If the county is NOT involved in your case, the MN Judicial Branch does NOT publish driver’s license reinstatement forms for your type of case. You might find forms at your local law library
or talk with a lawyer
How do I modify or enforce a child support order from another state?
MN courts may enforce or modify a child support order from another state only if the parties meet the requirements set out in MN law. See Minn. Stat. ch. 518C
As explained in the statutes, one of the parties must register the support order from another state in the county where they live before it can be enforced or modified.
To register the order, you must file the following with local court administration:
- Letter to court administration asking them to register the child support order based on Minn. Stat. § 518C.602;
- Two (2) copies of the foreign (non-MN) support order (one (1) certified copy and (1) plain copy);
- The names and addresses of all parties and attorneys involved;
- Notarized statement that to the best of their knowledge and belief, the foreign (non-MN) order has not been modified; AND
- Filing fee or a fee waiver.
There are many details in the law that control which court can make decisions about a support case. Unless both parents and the child(ren) live in MN, the court may not be able to hear your case. If you are not sure whether you can enforce or modify your order in MN, talk to a lawyer
for advice on your situation.
Where can I get more information about child support?
There are two categories of child support forms:
- The form packets include instructions and the forms that need to be completed.
- The court does NOT publish forms to start child support.
- If you do not see a link to forms that fit your situation, visit your local law library to find forms, or talk to a lawyer.
- If you have a child support order, select the form packet that deals with your issue.
- If you do not have a child support order and you want to start child support, visit FAQs tab.
Expedited Process forms
Motion to Modify to Child Support – Use this packet of forms to ask the court to change the amount of child support, medical support, or child care support ordered in your case.
Responsive Motion to Modify Child Support – Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion to change the amount of child support, medical support, or child care support ordered in your case.
Motion to Stop COLA – Use this packet of forms to ask the court to stop the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) before it goes into effect in your child support case.
Responsive Motion to Stop COLA - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion asking for the court to stop the Cost-of-Living Adjustment COLA) before it goes into effect in your child support case.
Agreement and Order to Waive (or Partially Waive) COLA – Use this form if you and the other parties, including the county, are in agreement to stop or reduce the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) from going into effect in your child support case.
Motion for Review of Order – Use this packet of forms if you disagree with the decision made in your child support case and want to ask the Child Support Magistrate to reconsider the decision.
Responsive Motion for Review of Order - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion for review of the Child Support Magistrate’s decision
Motion to Modify Medical Support Only – Use this packet of forms to ask the court to change only the medical support obligation ordered in your case.
Responsive Motion to Modify Medical Support Only - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion asking for the court to change the medical support obligation.
Motion to Reinstate Driver’s License – Use this packet of forms to ask the court to reinstate your driver’s license if it was suspended for non-payment of child support.
Request for Continuance – Use this form to ask for your child support hearing to be changed to a later date.
Request for County to Serve Papers – Use this packet of forms if you do not know the other party’s address and want to ask the County Child Support Office to serve your motion for you.
Request for Transcript – Use this form to ask for a copy of the official written record, called a transcript, from a child support hearing.
Request for Subpoena – Use this form to ask for the court for a subpoena in a child support case.
District Court forms
Motion to Modify Child Support and/or Spousal Maintenance - Use this packet of forms to ask the court to change the amount of child support, medical support, child care support, or spousal maintenance ordered in your case.
Responsive Motion to Modify Child Support and/or Spousal Maintenance - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion asking the court to change the amount of child support, medical support, child care support, or spousal maintenance ordered in your case.
Motion to Stop COLA - Use this packet of forms to ask the court to stop the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) before it goes into effect in your case.
Responsive Motion to Stop COLA - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion asking for the court to stop the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) before it goes into effect in your case.
Motion to Modify Medical Support Only - Use this packet of forms to ask the court to change only your medical support obligation ordered in your case.
Responsive Motion to Modify Medical Support Only - Use this packet of forms to respond to the other party’s motion asking the court to change only the medical support obligation.
Rules and Laws
If you are representing yourself in a child support case in MN, you are responsible for following the same laws and rules as an attorney. Review Representing Yourself in Court for more information.
Laws & Rules on Child Support
The following is a list of some of the laws and rules that pertain to child support in MN. See also Laws, Rules & Legal Research.
You can get more help with legal research at law libraries in MN. Talk to a lawyer to learn how the law and rules may affect your case.