When I have a family law case that involves child support and/or spousal maintenance, I always recommend to my clients that they apply for child support services (if they do not already have a child support case open through their county). Child support services are helpful for the obligee (the person receiving the payments) as well as the obligor (the person who is paying).
What are child support services? The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Support Enforcement Division is the umbrella agency for all the county child support offices. As stated on their website: “Minnesota’s child support program is county administered and state supervised. The state office sets policy, maintains a statewide computer system and payment center, disburses child support to families, monitors program performance and supervises Minnesota’s child support program. County child support offices administer the program, provide services and manage cases by working with parents to establish and enforce support orders.” “Child support agencies helpestablish paternity, get anorder for support,enforce an existing order, collect payments and more.” (The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is a great resource for answering this question: http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=id_000160#.)
Once my clients have an order for child support, they can apply for full child support services using this application or by contacting their county’s child support agency: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/public/DHS-1958-ENG. As of 2014 if the applicant is not receiving public assistance, the applicant must pay a $25 application fee and a 2% recovery fee (2% of the funds collected). If the applicant or their minor children are receiving public assistance, then there is no charge. The child support agency has many enforcement remedies such as contempt proceedings for non-payment of support, income withholding, tax intercepts, and driver’s license suspension. (For a complete list see: http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=id_008810#.)
If my clients have a spousal maintenance only order (no child support), an income-withholding case can be opened using this application: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/public/DHS-3164-ENG. As of 2014, a monthly $15 fee is paid by the obligor through income withholding for income withholding-only services and there is no application fee for the applicant. In spousal maintenance only cases (also known as non-IVD cases); however, the child support agency will not initiate the income withholding. That must be done by my client or, as is typical, I do the necessary paperwork. For my client’s I have sent the income withholding notice found at this site to the obligor’s employer: https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-5785-ENG. Once the income withholding commences, the county child support agency will monitor the income withholding but the agency will not automatically implement a cost-of-living adjustment for spousal maintenance. A packet addressing cost-of-living adjustments can be found at: http://www.oesw.leg.mn/cola/COLAPacketrev092014.pdf.
How can child support services benefit the obligor? Part of the issue of child support and spousal maintenance is keeping track of how much is owed and how much is paid. Child Support Enforcement computer system keeps track of all payments and the balance due. When I was a child support officer I would run into obligors who paid the obligees directly; however, without proof of payment they did not get credit for those payments if the obligee claimed the payments were never made. Using the services of the child support agency helps to avoid this situation.
Another benefit to the obligor (and obligee) is that if the obligor (or the obligee) believes there has been a substantial change in his/her circumstances making the child support obligation unreasonable and unfair, the obligor can request that his/her obligation be reviewed by the child support agency. This site explains this situation well: http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=id_008812.
This blog provides a brief overview of child support services and how the child support agency can assist obligors and obligees. I encourage the reader to visit the DHS website for further information. Please keep in mind that the statutes upon which these described child support services are based occasionally change so any reader of this blog should check out the DHS website for updated information, contact their child support officer (if he/she has an open child support case), or contact an attorney regarding his/her individual case. Once child support and/or spousal maintenance is ordered, both the obligor and the obligee can take advantage of the child support services provided by the State of Minnesota.