The internationally-acclaimed step dance production, Lord of the Dance, pushed boundaries in ways unimagined before Michael Flatley and his brilliantly-choreographed stories brought to life through step-dance; catapulting step-dance shows to broader appeal, from theaters to stadiums and arenas and beyond. I posit that our Supreme Court proved itself Michael Flatley’s equal (in jurist terms) when it authored its step-inspired opinion in the matter of Dakota County v. Gillespie. 866 N.W.2nd 905 (Minn. 2015).
Whilst the Lord of the Dance illustrated the power of steps to entertain and inspire, the Minnesota Supreme Court similarly illustrated the power of steps, to accurately utilize the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines in determining the presumptive child support obligation of a parent in a Paternity, Child Custody, or Divorce or Domestic Abuse Proceeding involving minor children.
In Gillespie, the Court was asked to look closely at the effect a parent’s Social Security Disability benefits had on their child support obligation. While the Court’s majority and dissenting opinions agreed that social security disability benefits can affect change upon a child support obligation, they conflicted how the parent’s social security affected child support (i.e. as soon as the child gets payment from Social Security, or, once the court has looked at the Social Security payments and recalculated support). The majority ruled that Social Security needs to be included in the child support calculation lest the parent not be credited for any Social Security received by the child.
In rendering its decision, the Supreme Court illustrated the steps, in Lord of the Dance fashion, to follow when calculating a parent’s child support. Here they are:
1. First, determine each parent’s gross income, including derivative Social Security benefits received by the child.
2. Next, subtract any credits for non-joint children (i.e. any other children either parent might have).
3. Next, divide the parents’ combined incomes into each parent’s individual income & determine a % for each parent.
4. Next, use the parents’ combined incomes to determine the basic support obligation, based on the State’s guidelines provided for reference at Minn. Stat. § 518A.34(b)(4).
5. Next, multiply the % from step 3 by the combined basic support obligation (step 4).
6. Next, adjust the parent’s support obligation by the amount of parenting time awarded.
7. Next, determine the parent’s % contribution (step 3) of child care costs and medical coverage costs.
8. Next, add together each parent’s obligations for basic support, child care support, and medical support.
9. Next, any Social Security or veterans’ benefits received by a child because of a parent’s eligibility get subtracted from child support.
10. And finally, the last step is to apply a discretionary ‘deviation’ from the guidelines, used both to encourage a parent to pay support, and to prevent the parent from living in poverty due to an excessively high child support payment.
The result is the final child support order.
Though deft in its ‘step-by-step’ analysis of the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines, alas, the Supreme Court may never fill stadiums quite like the agile ‘steps’ of Lord of the Dance. Regardless, these steps can prove helpful in understanding child support in Minnesota. And for information on the Minnesota Child Support Guidelines, please contact us!
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