There is a limit or presumptive “cap” on how much child support a parent can be ordered to pay, even if that parent’s income and ability to pay support greatly exceeds that which most of us consider to be “normal” or “average” income.

Take, for example, the case of successful musician/entertainer Daryl Hall, of “Hall and Oates” fame. In January 1988 Mr. Hall successfully argued to the Minnesota Court of Appeals that even though he had annual net earnings of approximately 1.4 million, his obligation to support his minor child, a Minnesota resident, should not exceed the maximum amount payable under the Minnesota Child Support guidelines, which at time was $1000 per month.

In accepting Mr. Hall’s argument, and in looking at similar determinations from other jurisdictions, the Appellate Court reasoned that a child support obligation is not the appropriate vehicle to raise a custodial parent’s standard of living. See State v. Hall, 418 N.W.2d 187 (Minn. Ct. App. 1988). Mr. Hall’s contention was that even though he had monthly income of more than $100,000.00, he actually spent less than 1/10th of that on standard of living, and described his personal lifestyle as “frugal” and “simple”; he wanted his child to be raised the same way.

In 2014, even though the child support guidelines in effect at the time of Mr. Hall’s case have been re-written, there is still a presumptive “cap” or “limit” on how much income can be considered for a parent’s child support obligation. Presently, that limit is Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000) combined monthly income from both parents. See Minn. Stat. § 518A.35 subd. 2. So if Mr. Hall were to make his argument under the current child support guidelines, his child support obligation would still be calculated based on a limit of $15,000 of monthly income (including the monthly income of the other parent); not the $100,000 plus per month that Mr. Hall was actually earning.

It is important to point at the law does allow (just as it did in 1988) a court to sometimes deviate from the child support guidelines and therefore remove the “cap” or “limit” on a parent’s income when determining child support. However, as we learned from Mr. Hall’s case, there are limits on how much income is used to determine child support. For income exceeding those limits, the court should normally say “I can’t go for that!”

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