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Home > Child Support > Article

Child Support System
Declared Unconstitutional

Minnesota Supreme Court upholds ruling


In 1975, Congress passed a law which included a last minute amendment to create the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE). When signing the bill, then President Ford commented that it took the federal government too far into domestic relations and promised to propose legislation to correct the problem. Over the decade that followed, it became clear that OCSE intended to grow in size and power to control all aspects of child support law, seizing that power from the state courts.

The size of the OCSE grew, this decade acquiring a staff in excess of 50,000 and costing taxpayers some $3 billion annually. Child support laws were modified, so that simple mathematical formulae are used to make award decisions. This new simplicity is required due to the low level of education of workers who are assigned as "judges" in child support cases. Extreme consequences defined by new federal laws, often carried out automatically and without trial, give the child support enforcement agency power over tens of millions of individuals that surpasses anything previously seen in the United States.

After almost 25 years since its start, judges in Minnesota finally felt that they had seen enough. In June of last year, the Court of Appeals decided that the administrative branch of government had exceeded its constitutional powers.





"The administrative child support process governed by Minn. Stat. 518.5511 (1996) is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers required by Minn. Const. art. III, 1." (STATE OF MINNESOTA IN COURT OF APPEALS C7-97-926 C8-97-1132 C7-97-1512 C8-98-33, Filed June 12, 1998; http://www.courts.state.mn.us/library/archive/ctappub/9806/c797926.htm)

The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the decision in January of this year.

"The administrative child support process created by Minn. Stat. 518.5511 (1996) violates the separation of powers doctrine by infringing on the district court's original jurisdiction, by creating a tribunal which is not inferior to the district court, and by permitting child support officers to practice law. Therefore, the statute is unconstitutional." (STATE OF MINNESOTA IN SUPREME COURT C7-97-926 C8-97-1132 C9-98-33 C7-97-1512, Filed: January 28, 1999, Office of Appellate Courts; http://www.courts.state.mn.us/library/archive/supct/9901/c797926.htm)

--Reported by Roger F. Gay

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