Child Support - Establishing orders

The child support office or a parent may ask the court to issue a support order. The support order may be an interim, temporary, permanent, or modified court order. It may be part of a divorce, paternity, child custody, or separate child support action, legal separation, or order for protection.


The court reviews both parents ability to provide financial support for their children when ordering a child support obligation. Child support includes basic support, medical support, and child care support.

Support orders may also address birth-related expenses and past child support for up to two years. In these situations, a parent may owe arrears when the order is signed.

Medical support

In Minnesota, the court must address medical support. The court may order a parent to do one or more of the following when ordering medical support:

  • • Provide health care coverage, which may include dental and vision coverage
  • • Pay a support obligation per month towards the cost of health care coverage, medical and dental expenses, or MinnesotaCare or medical assistance if it is being expended
  • • Pay a portion of uninsured medical or dental expenses.
  • Child care support

    The court must review child care expenses that occur when the parent the child lives with works or goes to school.

    The court decides each parent’s portion of financial responsibility for child care support.

    Basic support

    Basic support is for expenses relating to the child’s care, housing, food, clothing, and transportation. The amount is determined by applying the parent’s combined parental income for determining child support (PICS) and the number of joint children to the basic support guidelines table. The basic support obligation does not include payment towards arrears.

    A court may consider the circumstances of the individuals involved and the child support guidelines for determining support when ordering an obligor to pay support.

    Court orders

    The court reviews child support agreements between the parties to make sure the guidelines are applied correctly and the child support amounts are appropriate. 

    In some cases:

  • • The court may decide not to use the income guidelines to determine the amount of child support.
  • • The court may order the child support to be reserved for a designated period of time. This means no monthly support is due until the case is reviewed again, usually at a set time in the future.

  • Exceptions

    When parents have joint physical custody, shared custody, equal parenting time, or split custody of a child, determining child support is complicated and is not covered by the guidelines for determining child support. Please contact your county child support office about calculations for those cases.

    Minor parents

    When parents are minors, the court appoints a guardian ad litem for each parent. The guardian ad litem represents the interests of the minor parents. Generally, minor parents are ordered to pay a minimal amount of child support or the support is reserved.

    Multiple obligations

    If an obligor owes current child support to more than one parent, the state sends a portion of each payment it receives to each parent.

    Child support for multiple obligations is calculated using child support guidelines. Obligations are paid according to the order the cases opened in the child support system, not necessarily by the age of the children involved.

  • • The first obligation is determined by calculating both parents’ Parental Income for Determining Child Support or PICS and applying this information along with the number of joint children to the guidelines table to determine each parent’s support obligation.
  • • To determine a parent’s second obligation, the parent’s support obligation for the children of the first action is deducted from the parent’s income prior to determining PICS. PICS for both parents of the second action, along with the number of joint children, are applied to the guidelines table to arrive at the support obligation for the children of the second action.
  • • Additional obligations are calculated the same way.

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