The basics of Wisconsin’s child support laws
In Wisconsin, both parents of a child must support the child financially. In Wisconsin, child support is determined by statutory child support guidelines. While the court can deviate from the guidelines based on certain factors, they rarely do.
A court will determine the final amount following the statutory-specific guidelines. The guidelines are based upon the incomes of the parties and the amount of placement (overnights) each parent has. If one parent has primary placement, the other parent will pay full child support. If the parents share placement, there is a formula that is used to determine child support based on income and the number of overnight placements each parent has.
Once a parent files a request for child support, the parties will be required to disclose financial information. The payment obligation depends on the payer’s income. Income equates to all gross income from all sources with only a few exceptions. 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.
- The health of the child.
- The potential earning capacity of the parties.
Although the court rarely grants deviations from the guidelines, ultimately, the court’s decision will be based on the best interests of the child.
In the end, the courts 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. Or, the court could ultimately order someone to spend time in jail as a sanction for failing to pay their child support.
If you would like to learn more about your rights and responsibilities surrounding child support, contact an experienced family law attorney.