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Child Support – Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
Minnesota law requires all IV-D child support and spousal maintenance orders include a cost-of-living provision, unless the court specifically waives it. The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is an increase in the amount of child support every two years due to increases in the cost of living.
The COLA amount is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It measures the increased costs over time of buying things such as food, clothing and shelter. COLA is used to ensure that the amount of support originally ordered increases to help keep up with inflation.
Court orders must specify which cost-of-living Consumer Price Index (CPI) to use to calculate the COLA and the date the COLA becomes effective.
A cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) occurs automatically on child support cases that:
Although Non-IV-D cases may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the agency will not process an automatic COLA if:
• the court order does not address basic support
Obligees who believe their court order provides for a cost-of-living adjustment can apply for a cost-of-living adjustment on their own in any month, but no sooner than two years after the date of the court order or last cost-of-living adjustment.
The Office on the Economic Status of Women’s Web site has A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments. The guide provides information on the COLA process for these orders.
If the court order has a provision waiving a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), the case is not eligible for a COLA.
• Non-IV-D cases: The obligee applying for the COLA is required to mail a COLA Notice to the obligor 20 days before the COLA effective date.
Minnesota law requires certain notices of rights and responsibilities. These notices are included in Form 3 Appendix A which is attached to every support order in Minnesota. Both parents should read the information in Appendix A so they know and understand the law.
• IV-D cases: The increase will take effect automatically on May 1 of the year the case is scheduled for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
• Non-IV-D cases: Cost-of-living adjustments completed by the obligee can be done in any month with two-year increments from the court-ordered date or the last COLA.
Each year, in each eligible IV-D case, the child support agency will:
1. Determine the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January of the current year and subtract the CPI from the month and year of the last cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) or the effective date of the order if no COLA had taken place before.
2. Determine the rate of increase by dividing the difference by the original CPI.
3. Multiply the rate of increase by the amount of the basic support or spousal maintenance obligation.
• IV-D Cases: The obligor must service the Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA with the court administrator no later than the last business day before the COLA effective date. Serve copies by first class mail to the obligee.
• Non-IV-D Cases: The obligor must service the Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA with the court administrator no later than the last business day before the COLA effective date. Serve copies by first class mail to the obligee.
If the obligor properly serves and files a Motion contesting the COLA, the Child Support Agency will not increase the child support obligation until after the court hearing.
The obligor must prove that their income has not increased over the last few years. The court might not have enough information to grant the request if the obligor does not provide tax returns for the last three years.
Forms and FAQs on Child Support COLA are available at the county Court Administrator’s office or found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Self-Help Center Web site under Divorce, Custody and Family Law.
At a contested cost-of-living (COLA) hearing, the obligor must show that he or she did not have an increase in income to cover the COLA. The court or child support magistrate may direct that all or part of the adjustment not take effect. The COLA is effective on the date the COLA Notice originally listed.
• IV-D Cases: Hearings for the motion to contest the COLA are conducted through the expedited process.
Important Information about Child Support Hearings (DHS-4902).pdf provides information about the child support hearing process.
The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) has specific requirements when a notice to servicemembers is or is not received.
Under both conditions, the stay period must be at least 90 days. The stay grant period can extend under specific requirements. If the stay is not granted or if the stay period is not extended, the service member must properly contest the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
When a service member fails to contest a COLA properly, the COLA is effective as of the date it would have become effective without a stay request.
Minnesota Statutes can be found on the Minnesota Office of Revisor of Statutes Web site.
• Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
• 42 United States Code, sections 666(a)(10)(A)(i)(II) (Supp.IV 1998 & Supp.V 1999)
• 45 Code of Federal Regulations, section 303.8
• Minnesota Statutes, section 518A.75
• Contesting the COLA
• Minnesota Statutes, section 518A.75
• Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
• 50 United States Code appendix, sections 521(d) and 522 (2006)
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