How to Win a Child Support Modification Case in Minnesota
Going through a divorce is difficult enough without having to deal with outdated or unfair child support obligations. If you’re struggling to make ends meet under your current child support order, you may be considering filing for a modification.
While the process can seem daunting, understanding how to build a successful case to modify your child support order can help ensure a favorable outcome.
Our experienced child support lawyers in Minnesota have helped many parents navigate the child support modification process. Read on for our comprehensive guide on how to win a child support modification case in Minnesota courts.
What is Child Support Modification?
A child support modification refers to legally changing an existing child support order by filing a motion with the court. Either parent can file for a modification if they believe the amount of child support should be increased or decreased due to a substantial change in circumstances.
Common reasons to request a modification of your child support order include:
- Changes in income for either parent
- Changes in parenting time arrangements
- Increased expenses for the child’s needs
- Changes in the needs of the child
- Cost of living adjustments
When Can You File for a Modification in Minnesota?
Under Minnesota statute 518A.39, either parent can motion the court for a modification of child support if certain conditions are met.
Some key requirements for filing a modification request include:
- It has been at least 2 years since the existing child support order went into effect
- There has been a substantial change in circumstances that makes the current order unreasonable or unfair
- The change in circumstances was not contemplated when the original order was entered
- The party filing has fully complied with the current support order
Outside of the 2-year timeframe, Minnesota courts may allow a modification if you can prove that your income has changed by at least 20% or that you’ve had a change in parenting time of at least 10%.
When is a Child Support Modification Case Likely to Succeed?
Certain situations are more likely to succeed when filing a motion to modify child support. Some circumstances where courts commonly approve modifications include:
- Substantial income changes – Job loss, pay cuts, pay raises, or other income changes greater than 20% are valid reasons for modifying support. Make sure you have proper documentation.
- Changes in physical custody – Parenting time and custody arrangements have changed significantly since the original order, especially if one parent has sole physical custody now.
- Large cost of living increases – Significant inflation and increased cost of living may justify an upward modification, especially if the change impacts the child’s expenses.
- Special needs or expenses – Extracurricular costs, increased medical costs, private school tuition, or other new expenses could warrant a modification.
- Changes in the household – Remarriage, additional children, or other changes in the household that alter expenses in caring for the child.
- Errors in existing order – Mistakes in the original child support calculations or improper procedures may merit correction through modification.
- Parent relocates – If the parent receiving support relocates farther away, travel costs for parenting time may justify an adjustment.
The more clearly you can demonstrate that the change in circumstances materially impacts the welfare and expenses of the child, the more likely the judge is to decide in favor of a modification.
How to File for a Child Support Modification in MN
The process for filing a motion to modify child support in Minnesota involves several steps:
1. Review Your Current Order
Before filing, thoroughly review your current child support order and the calculation used to determine the amount. Note any changes to income, expenses, parenting time, etc., since the order went into effect.
2. Gather Documentation
To support your request for a modification, you’ll need to provide documentation of the substantial change in circumstances. This includes proof of income changes like paystubs, tax returns, W-2s, and employment status. You’ll also need documentation related to changes in custody, parenting time, child expenses, etc.
3. Complete the Motion to Modify Forms
To officially request a modification, you must complete a Motion to Modify Child Support form with information justifying the change. You must also fill out a Financial Affidavit disclosing your income, assets, debts, and monthly expenses.
4. File the Motion with the Court
After completing the forms, file them with the court and your supporting documentation. You must also serve the other parent with copies of the motion and affidavits.
5. Attend the Modification Hearing
The court will schedule a hearing where both parents can present evidence and testimony supporting why the child support amount should or should not be modified. Make sure you are fully prepared to argue your case.
6. Receive the Court’s Order
After the hearing, the judge will issue a court order deciding on whether the modification is approved. If approved, it will state the new child support amount and terms.
Tips for Winning a Child Support Modification Case
Winning a favorable child support modification ruling ultimately comes down to effectively arguing your case and providing sufficient evidence to the judge.
Here are some key tips:
- Retain an experienced family law attorney – Having a knowledgeable lawyer who can navigate the legal complexities is crucial. They will know how to build the most compelling argument using supporting facts and legal precedents.
- Clearly demonstrate the substantial change – Thoroughly document how circumstances have changed since the current order using concrete evidence like financial records, employment verification, custody agreements, etc. Vague assertions won’t suffice.
- Highlight how the change affects the child’s welfare – Modification cases hinge on the child’s best interests, so emphasize how the support change positively or negatively impacts the child. Cost of living changes or changes in the child’s needs are good examples.
- Follow all procedural legal requirements – Failing to properly file motions, provide mandatory disclosures, or meet deadlines could get your case dismissed. Your lawyer will ensure compliance.
- Negotiate and compromise – Being unwilling to compromise can hurt your chances. Judges prefer mutually agreed-upon solutions.
- Remain calm and factual – Emotional outbursts or attacks on the other parent will not be received well. Stick to facts and data.
- Prepare your testimony – In your hearing, clearly explain the reasons for modifying support and how it benefits the child. Practice answering cross-examination questions.
- Highlight your commitment – Emphasize that you’ve fully complied with existing obligations and acted in good faith. Judges don’t react well to deadbeat parents.
With the right approach and evidence, you can convince the judge that modifying the child support order is appropriate and in the child’s best interest. An attorney well-versed in family law can help craft a winning legal strategy and ensure you avoid procedural mistakes.
How Can a MN Family Law Attorney Help?
Consulting with an experienced Minnesota family law attorney is highly recommended before filing a motion to modify child support.
Having an experienced divorce lawyer in your corner can make all the difference in getting the fair outcome you deserve. The seasoned family law attorneys at Martine Law are ready to guide you through the child support modification process and develop a winning legal strategy on your behalf.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you could benefit from a change in your child support obligations. We offer compassionate guidance and aggressive representation so you can focus on what matters most – your child’s best interests.