Minnesota law requires anyone who is legally obligated to provide “care and support” to either a child or a spouse to do so, or face criminal punishment. If someone “knowingly omits and fails” to provide “care and support,” depending on how long that omission and failure goes on, that person can expect to be charged with a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, or a felony. Below is a link to the Minnesota law on the subject:
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently decided that a man from Rochester, Minnesota, who owed many years of child support for his two kids (to the tune of over $83,000) cannot be convicted because the Prosecution did not prove that he had “failed to care for his children.” What’s the confusion? The statute says “care and support,” and the state only proved one, not both! The state proved that he failed to provide support – defined as the monetary kind. But, the state failed to prove that he failed to provide care – defined as the non-monetary kind (like supervision, assistance, and attention, for example). Because he did not fail to provide both, Justice Stras wrote in the opinion, he cannot be convicted of a crime.
Take a deep breath………I know!!! Apparently, the man was ordered to pay his ex-wife $378 a month for his two children. He did for a while and then stopped. His wife and the county in which she and the children reside had attempted to get him to pay on numerous occasions. There were repeated court orders and civil contempt of court charges – to no avail. He stopped paying without a lawful excuse and refused to continue. He racked up a bill of back child-support of over $83,000. Since his failure to pay his court-ordered child support went on so long, the state charged him with a felony.
You can read the opinion, if you’d like (see below). It basically focuses on the definitions and usage of the words “care” and “support” and the usage of the phrase “care and support” and what it/they mean. I was pleased to see the three dissenting Justices opposing what seems like an absurd interpretation of what I have always thought was a rather clear statute. And, although I agree that when all is said and done, one can come up with more than one meaning for the words and phrase “care and support,” it does strike me as more than odd (downright unfair, as a matter of fact) that someone could “care” for a child or a spouse (in the manner in which children must be “cared” for) without providing a dime.
What does it mean for people who will need to or choose to pursue criminal charges for the dead-beat partner with whom they share children? Couldn’t tell you right now. Time will tell. But, be advised that for the time being, Minnesota defines “care” and “support” as two entirely different words that must be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, both separately and together in order to get a conviction. Nobody panic! In the end, we hope logic and common sense will prevail.
Here’s a link to the recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision:www.decorolaw.com