About Cost-of-Living Adjustments
is a cost-of-living adjustment?
you eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment?
should you file for the adjustment?
is the amount of the adjustment determined?
do you file these papers?
is a modification of child support?
is a cost-of-living adjustment?
Most child support orders issued in Minnesota since August
1, 1983, have included a requirement that the child support amount be adjusted
every two years based on changes in the cost of living. The
cost-of-living-adjustment reflects the change over a period of time in what we
pay for such goods as food, clothing, housing, etc.
Cost-of-living adjustments are designed to help you keep up
with inflation--to recognize that the costs of caring for your children today
are higher than they were when your child support was established. Because of
inflation, clothing and food cost more today than when child support was
established. In recent years, inflation has been relatively low (1 to 4
percent a year), but inflation rates can fluctuate significantly and it is
important to keep cost-of-living adjustments up to date because of this.
eligible for a cost-of-living adjustment?
You should check your child support/spousal maintenance
order to see if it mentions a cost-of-living adjustment. Usually this
information appears in Appendix A of the order or divorce decree.
If there is no reference to a cost-of-living adjustment in
your child support/spousal maintenance order, you must first go through the
process of adding this provision. If you receive child support or both child
support and spousal maintenance, ask the Child Support Enforcement Office in
your county for help. This office will not help if you have spousal
maintenance only. If you receive only spousal maintenance, you should talk to
an attorney about adding a cost-of-living adjustment provision to your order.
you file for the adjustment?
Even though you are entitled to a cost-of-living adjustment,
you must request the adjustment when two years have passed. It
does not happen automatically unless the county is collecting
child support for you.
You can only request an adjustment every two years. You
can't ask for an adjustment every year.
If it has been greater than two years since the last
adjustment or change to your order, or it has been greater than two years and
no prior adjustment has been made, you can compute the adjustment for the time
you missed. Two court decisions have upheld the right to do so.
v. Braatz, 489 N.W.2d, 262 (Minn. Ct. App. 1992), the court decided
that the "statute does not preclude the district court from adjusting a
support obligation based on the cost-of-living increase over a period greater
than two years where no prior cost-of-living adjustment has been made."
In Huizinga v. Huizinga, 529 N.W.2d, 512 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995),
the court further clarified that the discretion of the district court is
limited to "determining whether all or part of the cost-of-living
adjustment should not take effect." The burden is on the person who pays.
"The cost-of-living adjustment shall take effect unless the obligor
establishes an insufficient increase in income."
How is the
amount of the adjustment determined?
The adjustment you are entitled to is based on the Consumer
Price Index (CPI). This is a standard measure of the inflation rate and is
determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. Your child support/spousal
maintenance order might specify which CPI you must use. If it does, you must
use the CPI indicated in your order. If it does not, you may choose
either of the following CPIs to calculate the adjustment but you must be
consistent with the index you use (e.g. both must be the monthly CPI-U or both
must be the semi-annual Mpls./StP CPI-U).
Table lists two different CPIs. They are the CPI-U and the MPLS/ST.
PAUL CPI-U. The "U" stands for "urban consumers" and
"MPLS/ST. PAUL." represents a measure of the inflation rate
specifically for the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. Again, you must
use the CPI measure stated in your child support order or divorce decree, if
any. Note: The MPLS/ST. PAUL CPI-U is available only twice a year
(semi-annually). The MPLS/ST. PAUL CPI-U listed in the July column of
the table is for the first half (January through June) of the current year and
the number listed in January is for the second half (July through December) of
the previous year.
There are also several base years for the CPI. Included in
this guide is a CPI
Table which lists the two CPI-Us for the 1967 base year. It does not
matter which base year you use, but you must use the same base each time you
calculate an adjustment.
Where do you
file these papers?
After completing the Cost-of-Living Adjustment Form, the
Letter of Notification, and the Affidavit of Service by Mail, you should make
several photocopies of them.
1) Send the original versions
of these three forms to the court where your child support order or divorce
decree was finalized, to be placed in your file. To obtain the address
of the court administrator you may have to call the court administrator's
office in that county or look on the web at: http://www.courts.state.mn.us
(on the map of Minnesota click the judicial district number which includes the
2) Send copies of
the Cost-of-Living Adjustment form and the Letter of Notification to the
person responsible for paying child support/maintenance.
3) Send copies of
the Cost-of-Living Adjustment Form and the Letter of Notification to the
employer if the person is paying you through his or her employer.
4) If you are receiving spousal
maintenance only and your ex-spouse sends the payments through the county, you
should also send copies of the Cost-of-Living Adjustment Form
and the Letter of Notification to the county child support enforcement office.
5) Finally, be sure to keep
copies of all the forms for your own records.
is a modification of child support?
By law, child support should be set according to
Minnesota’s child support guidelines. These guidelines set a
percentage of the obligor's income based on the size of the obligor's net
monthly income and the number of children for whom support is being
determined. If you feel the amount of child support you receive is not
appropriate based on the guidelines, you may wish to consider a legal modification
of your child support award. The modification process– which will
involve a review of the payer's income– is entirely different from the cost-of-living
Child support orders can be modified if there is:
- a substantial* increase or decrease in either
parent’s earnings; or
- a substantial increase or decrease in the needs of a
parent or child; or
- a change in the child’s or parent’s cost of living;
- extraordinary medical expenses for the child; or
- a new or increased or decreased need for paid child
care services because of work or education needs of the custodial
- any of these changes make the terms of the original
order unreasonable or unfair.
*It is presumed that there is a substantial change in
circumstances and the order is unreasonable and unfair if:
- current support is 20 percent and $50 higher or lower
than the guidelines;
- the medical support provisions are not enforceable;
- the health coverage ordered is not available to the
child for whom the order is established; or
- the existing order is in the form of a percentage, not
a dollar amount.
To pursue a modification of child support, ask the Court
Administrator’s office in your county for a form to request a modification
in child support. If the county is providing child support services, either
parent may request in writing that the child support office review their
support order to see if the requirements for a modification are met. If
so, the county may request a modification in child support in the expedited
child support hearing process. For more information, you may wish to
read the OESW brochure on child