The County Attorney's Office initiates Child in Need of Protection or Services (CHIPS) petitions to protect abused or neglected children in the county. The division also starts legal proceedings to protect the health and safety of vulnerable adults within the County when they are in need of assistance. When appropriate, attorneys file involuntary commitment actions to provide necessary treatment for individuals who are mentally ill or chemically dependent.
One goal of the County Attorney's Public Health and Human Services Division is the protection of our most vulnerable citizens. In furthering that goal, our attorneys provide legal advice and represent the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and Human Services in juvenile court proceedings relating to child protection. Children who have been abused or neglected are far more likely to perform poorly in school, get involved in criminal activities and abuse or neglect their own children. While we do not directly provide child protection services, our agency client provides services to protect children from abuse and neglect and to help families obtain services to change their behaviors. We also appear in juvenile court truancy matters, since children who are truant often have family and personal problems which affect their school attendance.
The County Attorney's Public Health and Human Services Division works closely with St Louis County’s child support office in bringing legal actions to establish paternity, set child support or to enforce child support orders. These actions are brought on behalf of children whether or not public assistance is being expended.
In the case of unmarried parents, we may file a paternity action to legally establish the father of the child(ren). Our investigators may conduct genetic testing, which involves the alleged father, mother and child(ren) having a genetic sample taken for testing of DNA present in the samples.
Once paternity is established, the court may order a child support order. Under Minnesota law, the amount of child support to be paid is based on an income share guidelines model. Using this model, the Court looks at the gross income or potential income of both parents. The Court also considers the expenses for non-joint children living in the home of the parent, child support orders for non-joint children not living in the home of the parent, spousal maintenance obligations, the receipt of social security or veteran’s benefits, an adjustment for court-ordered parenting time, and the ability of the obligor to pay support. The law requires that payments be made to a central state payment agency, which forwards the payment to the custodial parent. Payments are often made through automatic wage withholding from the paycheck of the obligor (parent ordered to pay support).
If an obligor does not pay the court-ordered child support, our office may take various enforcement actions. We can seek interception of income tax returns, license suspension (including driver’s license, hunting and fishing licenses, and professional licenses such as a doctor's or lawyer's license), and/or passport denial. The office can bring a legal action to have the obligor found in civil contempt, resulting in the possibility of money judgments being imposed and jail time being served.