Family Law | Enforcing child support payments in Minnesota: What should I know?

Parents in Minnesota who are owed child support do have options for collecting that money.

In fiscal year 2015, the Minnesota Department of Human Services handled approximately $603 million in child support payments. However, the amount of delinquent payments at the time totaled roughly $1.6 billion.

All parents in Minnesota are financially obligated to provide for a child in terms of basic needs, medical care and child care. Parents who have not received the money owed to them do have options. Here is what they should know about collecting those payments.

Opening a case

The DHS is tasked with enforcing orders for support. However, there are certain criteria that a case must meet before the department can take action. For example, a parent who owes child support typically is given enough time to be notified of a past-due amount and determine his or her options for payment. The custodial parent or the parent owed money can connect with DHS to see what steps may be taken in his or her case.

Options for enforcement

There are a number of ways that the DHS can compel someone to pay the amount he or she owes in child support. The law permits the department to suspend someone's license, either a professional, driving or recreational one. Additionally, someone's passport could be put on hold.

Under the law, an employer may have to withhold income from someone's paycheck if he or she is not up to date on child support payments. The person who owes money may also have to sacrifice state or federal tax refunds. In some cases, it is possible to seize the delinquent parent's financial assets, such as money that is in a bank account.

Parents who are behind on child support should be aware that it may reflect poorly on their credit score, as the department can report the issue to a credit bureau. This can be especially troubling for someone trying to secure a loan.

When delinquency turns criminal

In extreme cases, it is possible to federally prosecute someone who owes back payments. As the DHS points out, the U.S. Attorney's Office typically takes on cases that involve the following:

  • Someone who has not paid support in connection with another federal crime
  • Someone who is behind at least $50,000 in payments
  • Someone who has moved across state lines to try to avoid paying the money owed

It should be noted, however, that if the person who owes support has filed for bankruptcy, he or she may be considered protected from federal prosecution.

The DHS recommends that anyone dealing with a child support enforcement issue contact the department as soon as possible. Further, people who have concerns should connect with a family law attorney in Minnesota.