In Wisconsin, in any action for divorce, legal separation, annulment or paternity, the court can enter an order for child support. A parent is obligated to pay child support until the child turns 18, or until the child turns 19 if he/she is acquiring a high school diploma or its equivalent. Factors considered in child support calculations include: gross incomes of the parents, number of children, where the children reside, and any prior support obligations a parent may have.
Child support payments are generally calculated using formulas set forth by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. In the basic situation where one parent has primary physical placement of the children, the formula uses the gross income of the parent ordered to pay support (the payer), and the number of children the payer is supporting. The support is calculated using a percentage of income standard, which multiplies the payer’s gross income by a starting percentage as follows:
17% - one child
25% - two children
29% - three children
31% - four children and
34% - five or more children
The resulting number is the amount of child support the payer parent will be required to pay to the other parent.
For purposes of determining the payer’s gross income, all sources of income can be considered; including salary and wages, interest and investment income, Social Security disability and old-age benefits, unemployment and worker’s compensation, military and veterans’ benefits, and voluntary deferred compensation benefits, such as a pension. Income can be modified for business expenses. Income can also be calculated based on the earning capacity of the parent, when the income of a parent is less than the parent’s earning capacity or is unknown.
However, courts are not obligated to follow the percentage standard. Wisconsin law sets forth sixteen factors the court may consider when modifying child support payments determined by the percentage standard. These factors include: the financial resources of the child, the financial resources of the parents, the cost of daycare, the child’s educational needs, the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health needs, and the earning capacity of each parent.
In the case of a shared-placement arrangement, a different formula is used. This formula takes into account the number of overnights the children spend with each parent, as well as the gross income of the parent receiving the child support (the payee). The shared-placement formula is used when one parent has physical placement of the children for at least 25% of the overnights in a year (which is approximately 92 overnights). The formula reduces the amount of support that a parent would have to pay under the regular percentage standard formula.
A different calculation is also used when a parent has children from a prior relationship or marriage. Payers are then given credit for prior support obligations when calculating the new support order.
In the instance of a low-income payer (gross income is less than $1,050 a month), the percentage standard used to calculate support is reduced.
For those considered high-income payers, the regular percentage standard is applied to a payer’s gross monthly income up to $7,000. For any income above $7,000, the percentages are reduced.
Split-placement formulas are applied in cases where parents have two or more children and each parent has placement of one or more but not all of the children. In such instances, child support is calculated using the percentage standard for both parents in accordance with the number of children with whom they have placement. Then, the parent with the higher support obligation has their amount offset by the amount of the obligation of the other parent.
Child support orders may also include provisions determining how children will be claimed as dependents and exemptions for tax purposes, how health insurance premiums and uninsured expenses will be paid, and how items such as tuition, daycare and extracurricular fees will be paid.
Child support orders are subject to modification and revision. Either party may request a revision of the support order, but they must prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances before the court will modify the original support order.
For further information on this topic or other family law matters, please email either Attorney Jim Miron ( email@example.com ) or Attorney Abby Theisen ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or call them at 920-731-6631 to discuss the legal services you may require.