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Minnesota Legislature

Parenting time, expense adjustment

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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Non-custodial parents might be able to spend more time with their children.

The rebuttal presumption now found in state statute requires that, in the absence of other evidence, a parent be entitled to receive at least 25 percent of the parenting time for his or her child.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), HF1003 would increase the presumption to 40 percent, if there are no issues related to the best interests of the child.

After an hour-plus discussion March 2 by the House Civil Justice Committee, Mahoney opted to hold the bill over for future discussion. There is no Senate companion.

Molly Olson, founder of the Center for Parental Responsibility, said children should have at least 40 percent time with each fit parent. “This will advance the well-founded premise that children need both parents and will maximize involvement by both parents,” she said.

Other proponents wondered why they should have to spend $100,000 or more in legal fees just to see their child a little more often. “It’s easier to work out the remaining 73 days when each has 146 to start,” said Mahoney. He said every-other-weekend, Friday night to Monday morning, is 78 days or nights. Half of a summer vacation is 46 days and equally divided school year breaks would be 15 days to equal 139 days.

Glen Norton, legislative chairman of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s family law section, said judges can already determine what is best for a child. “This bill goes the other way.”

The bill would also modify the parenting expense adjustment, so the non-custodial parent’s child support obligation would be based on parenting time established by the court.

Currently a 10 percent to 45 percent parenting time results in a 12 percent discount in child support. The bill would change the top percentage to “not less than 30 percent.” It would add that between 30 percent and 45.1 percent parenting time results in a 30 percent decrease in child support.

Michael Dittberner, legislative chairman of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said adding levels could lead to access fights based on financial benefit.

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