When parents are involved in a divorce proceeding, Minnesota law requires that the court consider the child’s financial support, and the parents’ obligations to contribute to that support.
Part of that consideration includes when the contributions should begin.
Many parents have argued that their obligation to contribute to the support of the child, should not pre-date the commencement of the divorce proceeding. That argument does not withstand consideration for the needs of the child, when parents have long been separated before before the divorce is started.
Courts have recognized a child support obligation can be made retroactive to the period before the divorce proceeding or child custody proceeding began. In 1981 the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized in its decision Jacobs v. Jacobs, that:
“a parent’s obligation to support [their] child commences with the child’s birth.”
309 N.W.2d 303, 305 (Minn. 1981).
Minnesota courts have interpreted this decision as giving them authority to award child support retroactive to the date of the parents’ separation; not the start of the divorce. The Minnesota Court of Appeals in its decision In Re the Support of J.M.K. recognized that an award of child support could properly be made retroactive to the period of time before the divorce proceeding started. 507 N.W.2d 459, 461 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993). And, in its 1996 Korf v Korf decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a divorce court’s decision to hold a parent responsible for financially supporting child, back to the date of the parents’ separation, nine (9) months before the divorce was started. 553 N.W.2nd 706, 710 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996).
These decisions recognize the broad discretion of the divorce courts in determining child support obligations, including when that obligation starts. Minnesota law recognizes that a court is free to determine that a parent’s child support responsibilities begin at the child’s birth and may therefore consider all payments made (and not made) by a parent to the support of their child, from the time of the parents’ separation, all the way to the date of the court’s final divorce decree.
This could mean that a parent to a divorce proceeding will end up owing a considerable amount of retroactive child support, even before the divorce is final. Parents should therefore be cautious when contemplating divorce, and living separately, to ensure they contribute to their child’s financial support, but also to keep a record of those contributions.
For more information about a separated parent’s responsibilities toward the financial support of a child, please consider seeking competent legal advice from the attorneys at Beyer & Simonson, LLC.
Contact Beyer & Simonson
If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.