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Understanding Wisconsin Child Support

Understanding Wisconsin Child Support

When you are a parent going through a divorce, determining what kind of financial support is going to be needed for your children is critical. As the receiving party, you may believe you have to anticipate every possible expense and hope that you will have enough to provide for your kids. If you are the obligated party, you could be concerned about the support amount. Fortunately, by better understanding Wisconsin child support, you can learn more about what to expect and prepare for the future.

Wisconsin Law

In Wisconsin, child support is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Figuring out exactly how much your children will need for everyday costs and for extra expenses can be challenging, especially when he or she is going back and forth between parent’s homes. To that end, the law is structured to consider a child’s placement, as well as other factors, to make a child support calculation.

  • Primary Placement-A parent has primary placement when the other parent has care of the child for less than 25% of the overnights. In this situation, the non-primary parent will typically pay the primary placement parent child support. The support amount is calculated by taking the parent’s gross income from all sources, and applying the statutory formulas as follows:
    • 17% of gross income for 1 child
    • 25% of gross income for 2 children
    • 29% of gross income for 3 children
    • 31% of gross income for 4 children
    • 34% of gross income for 5 or more children
  • Shared Placement-If a parent has a child for at least 25% of the time, he or she is considered to have shared placement with the other parent. A parent can have a child more than 25% of the time and still be obligated to pay the other parent child support. However, both parents’ incomes will be taken into consideration, The base formula is applied to both parties’ incomes but is discounted by the amount of placement time each has.
  • Split Placement-A split placement occurs when parents are each primary placement for at least one of the couple's children. For example, ex-wife would be the primary placement to a couple's daughter, while ex-husband would be the primary placement of the couple's son. In this situation, both parents' incomes will be considered, and the placement of any children would be taken into consideration when calculating a support amount. The parent who would have been ordered to pay the higher amount would pay the difference to the other parent.
  • Serial Families-In the event a parent has to pay support for children in multiple or "serial" families, the support order will factor in other existing child support orders when calculating child support in you case. In other words, a parent’s support obligation outside of the subject order will be considered before calculating your child support.

When Child Support Ends

A parent’s obligation to pay child support under a Wisconsin order typically ends when the child turns 18, or 19 if the child is still enrolled in high school or is working on a high school equivalency course (GED). However, if an obligated party is in arrears, his or her past-due child support obligation will remain enforceable even past the child’s graduation.

Special Circumstances

Although a child may have a severe disability and special needs that are expected to last into adulthood, Wisconsin law does not require that a parent pay support beyond the standard age. Additionally, parents are not obligated to pay for their children’s college or other adult educational expenses. However, parents can enter into support agreements that last for any length of time and contain terms about extended educational costs. They are simply not enforceable unless both parents agree to put those terms into their divorce decree.

Calculating child support can be a complicated process, and it's vital to have the right information and advice. At First Look Family Law, attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience advising clients regarding child support issues.

Please feel free to call First Look Family Law today to schedule an appointment and talk about your situation.