The basics of Wisconsin’s child support laws

In Wisconsin, both parents of a child must support the child financially. Generally, a court will assign payment obligations to the parents, based on what is reasonable. However, this question may be determined on a case-by-case basis, as every family is unique.

A court will determine the final amount; yet, there are some specific guidelines. Often, the parent with fewer physical placement responsibilities makes the payment. However, it is important to know that the parent with the greater amount of placement also still must contribute to the child's expenses. Nevertheless, the amount of support from the non-placement parent is often based on the idea that the primary placement parent is already paying a solid amount toward raising the child in his or her home.

Once a parent files a request for child support, parties will be required to disclose financial information. The payment obligation generally depends on the payer's income. Income equates to all gross income from all relative sources. Wisconsin has several different child support calculation guidelines. In addition to the parents' incomes, the calculations depend on custody/visitation arrangements and the number of children involved. The greater number of children in the equation, the greater the payment obligation will be. If a parent has shared placement, which is defined as more than 25 percent of the time, they will pay less child support. Ultimately, there are several different mathematical equations for varied family types.

Often, the child support calculation guidelines will suffice. However, again, every family's situation is not always black and white. If the general guidelines do not fit the particular family (in that they are not fair), the court might also consider some of the following factors:

  • The cost of childcare.
  • The custody arrangement.
  • Whether a parent supports other children (from a different relationship).
  • The financial resources of both parents.
  • Whether there is spousal maintenance.
  • The health of the child.
  • The potential earning capacity of the parties.

As a whole, the court's decision will be based on the best interests of the child. Payments could be adjusted based on the child's personal needs.

In the end, the court's take the child support obligations of the parents very seriously in Wisconsin. A child must have adequate financial support in order to prosper and grow. In fact, when parents fail to make child support payments, the court could find that parent in contempt and order various penalties and sanctions. For example, the state could intercept state and federal income tax refund checks. Furthermore, the state might freeze savings accounts and suspend professional and transportation licenses until payments are up to date.

If you would like to learn more about your rights and responsibilities surrounding child support, contact an experienced family law attorney.