Child Support – Cost-of-Living Adjustments

A cost-of-living adjustment increases the amount of child support due because of increases in the cost of living. Minnesota law requires that IV-D child support and spousal maintenance orders have a cost-of-living provision, unless the court specifically waives it. These adjustments ensure that the amount of support originally ordered increases to help keep up with inflation.

Most Minnesota child support orders require a cost-of-living adjustment every two years. The adjustment is based on the consumer price index specified in the court order. Adjustments take effect on May 1. The child support office prepares and processes cases that qualify and notifies parents and can answer questionsabout the calculations. Parents may contest the increase by filing and serving a motion to contest.

The cost-of-living increase:

  • • Applies only to basic support and spousal maintenance
  • • Does not apply to amounts for medical support or child care support.
  •  
  • The Consumer Price Index
  • Automatic cost-of-living adjustments
  • Cases not eligible for a cost-of-living adjustments
  • Notices
  • Effective dates for cost-of-living adjustments
  • Calculating cost-of-living adjustments
  • Stopping cost-of-living adjustments
  • Hearings for contested cost-of-living adjustments
  • Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act
  • Authority
  • The Consumer Price Index

    The cost-of-living adjustment amount is based on the Consumer Price Index. The Consumer Price Index measures the increased costs of things like food, clothing and shelter. Court orders must specify which Consumer Price Index to use to calculate the adjustment and the date the adjustment becomes effective.

    Automatic cost-of-living adjustments

    IV-D cases

    A cost-of-living adjustment is made automatically on IV-D cases that:

  • • Receive full services from the child support office
  • • Have basic support ordered, and
  • • The court order requires a cost-of-living adjustment.
  • Non-IV-D cases

    Although Non-IV-D cases may be eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment, the child support office will not process an automatic adjustment if:

    • The court order does not address basic support

    • The case has income withholding-only or spousal maintenance-only services (is not receiving full services).

    Obligees who do not receive an automatic cost-of-living adjustment and who believe their court order provides for an adjustment can apply for it on their own. They may apply in any month, but no sooner than two years after the date of the court order or last cost-of-living adjustment.

    For more information about the cost-of-living adjustment process, the Office on the Economic Status of Women’s website has a helpful resource: A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments..

    Cases not eligible for cost-of-living adjustments

    If the court order waives a cost-of-living adjustment, the case is not eligible for it.

    Notices

    • IV-D cases: Both parents will get a notice about a cost-of-living adjustment at least 20 days before the date the increase takes effect.

    • Non-IV-D cases: The parent applying for the cost-of-living adjustment must mail a notice to the other parent 20 days before the date the increase takes effect.

    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.

    Effective dates for cost-of-living adjustments

    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.

    • Non-IV-D cases: Cost-of-living adjustments completed by the parent can be done in any month with two-year increments from the date of the original court order or the last cost-of-living adjustment. If the court orders a cost-of-living adjustment, it will take effect on the date the court orders.

    The cost-of-living adjustment will take effect unless the parent who owes support files a Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA. If the parent properly serves and files a Motion contesting the adjustment, the child support office will wait for the court decision before adjusting the child support obligation. If the court orders a cost-of-living adjustment, it will take effect on the date originally listed in the cost-of-living notice.

    Calculating cost-of-living adjustments

    Each year, for eligible IV-D cases, the child support office 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 or the effective date of the order waiving or stopping the cost-of-living adjustment.

    Example:
    In January 2009, the CPI was 658.8. In 2007, the January CPI was 630.5. The difference is 28.3 (658.8 – 630.5 = 28.3).

    2. Determine the rate of increase by dividing the difference by the original CPI.

    Example:
    In the above example, the CPI rose 4.5 percent. Divide 28.3 by 658.8 to equal .045 or 4.5% (28.3/630.5 = .045).

    3. Multiply the rate of increase by the amount of the basic support or spousal maintenance obligation.

    Example:
    If the basic support obligation was $300.00, the new amount would be $314.00 ($300.00 X 4.5% = $13.20). Rounded up to the nearest dollar, the increase would be $14.00.

    Stopping cost-of-living adjustments

    • IV-D Cases: The parent who owes child support must file the Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA with the court administrator no later than the last business day before the cost-of-living adjustment effective date. The parent must also serve copies by first class mail to the other parent.

    • Non-IV-D Cases: The parent who owes child support must file the Notice of Motion and Motion to Stop COLA with the court administrator no later than the last business day before the cost-of-living adjustment effective date. The parent must also serve copies by first class mail to the other parent.

    If the parent who owes child support properly serves and files a Motion contesting the adjustment, the child support office will wait for the court decision before adjusting the child support.

    The parent who owes child support must prove that their income has not increased over the last few years. Copies of tax returns for the last three years may be helpful information for the court to grant the request.

    Forms and answers to frequently asked questions about child support cost-of-living adjustments are available at the county court administrator’s office or on the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Self-Help Center website under Divorce, Custody and Family Law.

    Hearings for contested cost-of-living adjustments

    At a contested cost-of-living hearing, the parent who owes support must show that he or she did not have an increase in income to cover the cost-of-living adjustment. The court or child support magistrate may direct that all or part of the adjustment not take effect. If an adjustment is ordered, it is effective on the date originally listed in the cost-of-living notice.

    • IV-D Cases: The hearing on a motion contesting the cost-of-living adjustment will follow the expedited process.

    • Non-IV-D cases: The hearing on a motion contesting the cost-of-living adjustment will be held in district court. The hearing is for basic support, spousal maintenance, or both.

    To learn more about the process, read Important Information about Child Support Hearings (DHS-4902) (PDF).

    Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act

    The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act has specific requirements when a notice to servicemembers is or is not received.

    Under both conditions, the act allows more time for the servicemember to contest a cost-of-living adjustment. The stay period must be at least 90 days. The stay can be extended under specific requirements. If the stay is not granted or extended, the servicemember must properly contest the cost-of-living adjustment.

    When a servicemember does not contest a cost-of-living adjustment properly, the adjustment will take effect as of the date it would have become effective without a stay request.

    Authority

    Minnesota Statutes can be found on the Minnesota Office of Revisor of Statutes Web site.

    • Cost-of-living adjustment

    • 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 cost-of-living adjustment

    • 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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