If you receive a notice of a hearing related to child support in Minnesota, you may find that the hearing will be presided over by a child support magistrate rather than a judge. So what is a child support magistrate?
A child support magistrate is a judicial officer appointed to preside over what are called “IV-D” cases (pronounced “four-D”). This name comes from Title IV, Part D of the Social Security Act, which provides funding to states to assist them in collecting child support and adjudicating paternity of children. A child support case is a IV-D case if the county is (or will be) collecting child support directly from the party who owes child support, usually through income withholding, and paying that amount to the recipient.
The process by which child support magistrates hear IV-D cases is referred to as “the expedited child support process.” A child support magistrate can only determine issues related to child support and paternity; if a petition, complaint, or motion deals with issues of custody, child support, or property, a district court judge will have to preside over the issues.
Once you find yourself at a hearing in front of a child support magistrate, there is very little difference between a magistrate and a judge. Just like a judge, a magistrate hears testimony, admits exhibits, makes evidentiary rulings, controls who speaks and when, and makes an ultimate decision on the issues before the court. You should treat a child support magistrate the same way you would treat a judge – with respect and courtesy. You should refer to the child support magistrate as “your honor.”
There are some important differences between child support magistrates and judges, however, which are very relevant before and after the hearing. There are special rules that govern child support magistrates.—Minnesota General Rules of Practice 351-378 These rules contain numerous departures from the standard rules for appearing before a district court judge, including limitations on the type of documents and information you can request from the other party before the hearing, and a decrease in the amount of time the other party has to provide the requested documents.
Child support magistrates also generally have to issue their orders within thirty days of the hearing, rather than the ninety days that district court judges usually get.—Minn. R. Gen. Prac. 365.02. Another important aspect of the rules that apply to child support magistrates is the fact that their orders can be challenged by filing a motion for review with a district court judge.—Minn. R. Gen. Prac. 376.
How we can help
Do you have questions or concerns about an upcoming child support hearing? I, along with the other family law attorneys at Alithis Family Law, would be happy to sit down with you and work out a way to face the challenge ahead. Give our office a call at 952-800-2025 or reach out via our online contact form. I look forward to hearing from you.