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Wisconsin Family Law Articles

How Does Wisconsin Child Support Work for High-Income Parents?

  • For parents, going through a divorce will involve changing how they spend time with their kids and share decision-making. It will also involve determining their respective child support obligations. The court will examine numerous factors in establishing support, including how much each parent earns. When one or both parents are high-wage earners, it can impact the child support calculation. If you or your ex have above average monthly income, you will want to know: How does Wisconsin child support work for high-income parents?

Wisconsin Child Support

  • In Wisconsin, child support is governed by Wisconsin Statute 767.511 and  Administrative Code DCF 150 (child support standard).
  • The court's support calculation will begin by determining the gross income available to each parent. A parent’s gross income is income and earnings from all sources.
    • The court will determine a parent’s monthly gross income available for child support by adding together:
    • The parent's annual gross income or, if applicable, the parent's annual income modified for business expenses;
    • The parent's annual income imputed based on earning capacity; and
    • The parent's annual income imputed from assets.
  • The total amount will then be divided by 12.
  • Once the parent’s gross income has been calculated, the court will look to the Wisconsin child support guidelines. How much parents will pay will depend on numerous factors, including how much time a child spends with each parent during placement time.
  • Shared Placement- Shared placement occurs when both parents have their child with them at least 25% of the time. In assessing shared placement child support, both parents’ income will be considered as well as the amount of time they spend with their child.
  • Primary Placement- Primary placement occurs when one parent has the child 75% or more of the annual overnights. In that case, the non-primary parent is expected to pay support to the placement parent for their child's care. The support calculation will be based on the non-primary parent’s gross income as follows:
    • 17% for one child;
    • 25% for two children;
    • 29% for three children;
    • 31% for four children; and
    • 34% for five or more children.

 

  • Split Placement- When parents have a split placement, each parent has primary placement of at least one of the couple’s children, or some combination of primary and shared placement of multiple children. In this situation, to calculate child support the court would look at the parents' respective support obligations, and the parent with the higher support obligation would pay the other the difference.

 

Wisconsin Child Support and High-Income Parents

  • Wisconsin’s child support guidelines provide for special circumstances, including the child support obligation of a high-income payer. When a parent earns above a certain threshold, the court may apply reduced percentage formulas when assessing and determining support.
  • The Wisconsin child support income ranges operate as follows:

Less than $7000 per month ($84,000 per year)

  • When a parent’s monthly income available for child support is less than $7000 ($84,000 per year), the court will calculate support as follows:
  • 17% for one child;
  • 25% for two children;
  • 29% for three children;
  • 31% for four children; and
  • 34% for five or more children.

Greater than $7000 and less than $12,500 ($150,000 per year)

  • If a parent’s monthly available income for child supports is greater than $7000 and less than or equal to $12,500 ($150,000 per year), the court will use the following percentages for the income earned between $84,000 and $150,000:
  • 14% for one child.
  • 20% for two children.
  • 23% for three children.
  • 25% for four children.
  • 27% for five or more children.
  • These standards for this income range are approximately 80% of the child support standard.

Greater than $12,000 ($150,000 per year)

  • When a parent’s income available for child support is greater than $12,500 ($150,000 per year), the court may apply the following percentages on income earned in excess of $150,000:
  • 10% for one child.
  • 15% for two children.
  • 17% for three children.
  • 19% for four children.
  • 20% for five or more children.
  • These standards are approximately 60% of the full child support percentage standards.
  • In essence, when a parent’s income is higher ($84,000 or more per year), their child support calculation may be reduced and the higher income subject to support at a lower percentage standard. However, income is just one of the factors Wisconsin courts can consider when assessing child support amounts.

Deviation from the Child Support Standard

  • The court must determine child support payments by using the designated percentage standard. However, the law provides that either party can request that the court modify a child support amount that has been calculated according to the standard. Upon receiving such a request, the court will examine certain factors to determine if a deviation is warranted.
  • If the court finds that the use of the percentage standard is unfair to the child or any of the parties, the court will state in writing:
    • The original support amount calculated using the applicable child support standard,
    • The amount by which the court's order deviates from that amount, and
    • The court’s reasons for finding that the use of the percentage standard is unfair to the child or the party, and
    • Its reasons for the amount of the modification and the basis for the modification.
  • Child support can be a complex calculation with long-term implications for parents and children. Therefore, if you are a parent, it’s crucial that you understand how Wisconsin’s child support laws will apply to you and your circumstances.

Contact an Experienced Wisconsin Child Support Attorney

  • If you have concerns about a Wisconsin child support matter, you should consult with an experienced Wisconsin child support and divorce attorney. Your Wisconsin attorney can provide you with the insight you need regarding child support and its impact on your finances and family.
  • Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with 30 years of legal experience. She can help you understand Wisconsin child support and all other aspects of your case. If you have a divorce or child support case in Metro Milwaukee, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.