Possible Changes in Minnesota Divorce & Family Law

Here is the latest in what is afoot in the Minnesota Legislature regarding bills that would amend our family law laws:

·         The House this week passed a health and human services omnibus bill that contains family law reforms supported by the MSBA. The bill includes a provision that would create a work group to study potential modifications to the parenting expense adjustment. It also contains language that: (1) clarifies the notice requirements of the Recognition of Parentage form; (2) includes parents with primary physical custody in the definition of “obligor” for spousal maintenance and child support; (3) changes the imputed income calculation to 30 hours per week at 100% of the minimum wage; and (4) gives courts discretion to not award child support in certain situations when it would be detrimental to the child.  

·         Yesterday the Senate passed a family law omnibus bill that merged a bipartisan package of five Bar-backed bills. The omnibus bill is comprised of the following pieces of legislation:

o   SF1191, sponsored by lawyer-legislator Sen. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), rewrites the best interest of the child factors by incorporating and enhancing many of the current factors and adding additional considerations.

o   SF73, also carried by Sen. Newman, addresses a critical gap in Minnesota law: we are the only state with no statutory guidance for custody matters involving deployed military members. SF73 fills this gap by, among other things, providing for expedited proceedings and barring permanent custody orders from being entered before or during a deployment without the service member’s consent.

o   SF1424 provides for simple annual interest rate calculations, tied to the market rate, for family law judgments. The bill also allows for a lower rate or no interest (although not for child support or spousal maintenance judgments) if the parties agree or the court finds it necessary to avoid unfair hardship. Additionally, the bill moves the notice of rights currently found in “Appendix A” into the actual order for divorce, custody, and parenting time.
o   SF1103, carried by lawyer-legislator Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville), requires courts to award compensatory parenting time, and in some cases civil penalties, when parenting time is denied intentionally and repeatedly, unless the denial was necessary to protect the child’s physical or emotional health. SF1103 also clarifies necessary tax documents for child support cases, and allows parties, by joint agreement, to restore the court’s jurisdiction over spousal maintenance modifications. In addition, the bill allows for modification of child support to a date before service of a motion to modify in the limited cases when the parties agree, or when a party fails to provide necessary financial information and the other party relies on what has been provided to that party’s detriment.

o   SF848 provides clarifying direction for courts when awarding income tax dependency exemptions.

The Senate package of bills now moves to the House, which may take action on it next week.