When parents are going through a divorce or legal separation, child support is a critical aspect of the case for Wisconsin families. At its core, child support is meant to ensure both parents contribute financially to the upbringing and well-being of their child or children. Understanding how child support is determined can help parents navigate this process with clarity and fairness. In this blog post, we'll explore the key aspects of determining child support in Wisconsin.
What is Child Support?
Child support is a financial obligation one parent has to the other to provide for the needs of their children. Funds provided through child support are meant to cover expenses related to the child's housing, education, healthcare, and other general living costs. The goal of child support, as described in the Wisconsin legal code, is to ensure both parents share the responsibility of raising their children even after they separate.
Which Parent Pays Child Support?
In Wisconsin, the parent who has primary physical placement of the child typically receives child support from the other parent. Physical placement refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent.
Is Child Support Mandatory?
Child support is mandatory in Wisconsin when one parent has primary placement or in cases where both parents have shared physical placement but one has a higher gross income than the other, however, there are ways to deviate from the standard child support calculations. Deviation from these guidelines is possible, but generally requires mutual agreement between both parents and approval from the judge, who will need to determine if the deviation is in the child’s best interest.
What Should I Expect to Pay in Child Support?
The Wisconsin Child Support Guidelines provide suggestions for the amount of child support that could be enforced based on the income of both parents and the number of children involved. The guidelines provide a formula for calculating child support, taking into account each parent's gross income, including wages, salary, commissions, rental income and other factors. Although each case is unique, the guidelines for approximately what you can expect to pay for child support are:
17% of income for 1 child
25% of income for 2 children
29% of income for 3 children
31% of income for 4 children
34% of income for 5 or more children
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has an online calculator tool to estimate what your child support payments could look like.
What is the Maximum Amount of Child Support?
Parents who earn relatively high gross income may be eligible for the court’s high-income payer formula which takes a smaller percentage of the parents monthly income for child support. To be eligible for the high-income payer formula, parents must earn more than $7,000 per month ($84,000 per year). Guidelines for parents who earn between $7,000 and $12,500 per month are:
14% of income for 1 child
20% of income for 2 children
23% of income for 3 children
25% of income for 4 children
27% of income for 5 or more children
For those parents who earn more than $12,500 per month ($150,000 per year) a separate list of guidelines applies. These parents can expect to owe:
10% of income for 1 child
15% of income for 2 children
17% of income for 3 children
19% of income for 4 children
20% of income for 5 or more children
To learn more about the high-income payer formula check out this worksheet from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
Can the Amount of Child Support Change?
Child support orders are subject to review every three years or when there is a significant change in circumstances. Examples of a significant change in circumstances could include:
Changes in income;
Changes in the child's needs; or
A change in the physical placement of the child.
At What Age Does Child Support End?
Child support payments in Wisconsin typically cease when the child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school, whichever comes later. However, in certain cases, such as if the child has special needs, child support may continue beyond this age.
What if Child Support is not Paid?
Non-payment of child support can have severe consequences. Wisconsin employs various enforcement measures to ensure compliance, such as wage garnishment (a portion of earnings withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt), tax refund interception, and suspension of driver's license. In extreme cases, non-payment of child support can even lead to imprisonment.
Consult an Attorney
Determining child support in Wisconsin involves considering various factors, including the child's needs, each parent's income, and extraordinary expenses. The state's guidelines aim to provide a fair and consistent approach to child support calculations. Regular reviews and modifications are essential to keep child support orders up-to-date and reflective of changing circumstances. Ultimately, child support ensures that children receive the financial support they need to thrive and grow. If you have questions about child support or need assistance with your case, attorneys at The Everson Law Firm can help. Contact Everson Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys.