An Overview of Child Support and Child Support Guidelines in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, parents have an obligation to provide financial support for their child. This support is intended to help ensure that the child has their needs taken care of, including in regards to food, clothing, shelter, and health care. How much a parent must pay in child support depends on a number of different factors. Under Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. § 767.511), there are generalized support guidelines in place. Child support is calculated based on the obligor’s (paying parent’s) pre-tax gross income. Although deviations are possible with good cause, Wisconsin presumes the following child support guidelines are appropriate:
- One Child: 17% of gross annual income.
- Two Children: 25% of gross annual income.
- Three Children: 29% of gross annual.
- Four Children: 31% of gross annual income.
- Five or More Children: 34% of gross annual income.
In order to get a deviation from the Wisconsin child support guidelines, a parent must have good cause. A parent may be required to pay more or less than stipulated by the guidelines based on the specific circumstances of the case. As an example, a parent could be held responsible for additional child support if they have significant financial resources that are not captured by gross income.
Who Pays: Understanding Custody, Physical Placement, and Child Support
In Wisconsin, custody refers to the concept of parental decision-making authority. Contrary to what some people believe, custody does not have a bearing on who pays child support. Even if divorced parents in Madison have shared custody rights (equal decision-making authority), one of the parents could still be required to pay child support to the other.
Instead, it is physical placement that affects child support. If a child spends most of their nights living with one parent, that parent is likely the one who will be entitled to child support payments. Time matters. A parent who has their child for 25 percent of nights may ultimately be required to pay a lower percentage of their gross income in child support than a parent who has their child for just 5 percent of nights.
Know How to Pay Child Support in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has a well-developed legal process for child support payments. Unlike in some other jurisdictions, it is not a good idea to make direct, informal child support payments in Wisconsin. Instead, all child support in our state should be paid to the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund (WI SCTF). The WI SCTF will then distribute the child support to the recipient parent. A parent paying child support to the WI SCTF has a number of different payment options available, including:
- Income withholding (preferred for most);
- Online payments;
- Phone payments; and
- Mail payments.
A parent will only get credit for making their required child support payments if they do so through the WI SCTF. Sending money in an informal manner directly to a co-parent is a mistake. Should a conflict arise, there will be no official record that child support payments were made. If you have any questions about the WI SCTF, our Madison child support attorneys are here to help.
Child Support Enforcement in Wisconsin
A parent who fails to make child support payments could face serious consequences in Wisconsin. There are a number of different enforcement options available. Among other things, a parent seeking to collect on past due child support payments may be able to get them through:
- Wage garnishment;
- Bank levy;
- Property seizure;
- Tax refund seizure; and
- Contempt of court finding.
A parent who has a genuine, good faith financial reason why they cannot keep up with their current child support payments may be entitled to a modification (reduction) in the amount that they owe. However, they must actively petition for a modification and demonstrate good cause.
We Handle the Full Range of Child Support Cases in Madison
While Wisconsin has standardized child support guidelines in place, every child support case still involves its own unique set of facts and circumstances. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we are prepared to put the time, resources, and attention to the small details needed to handle your specific case right away. Whether you are receiving child support or paying child support, we can help. Along with other types of child support cases, our Madison family law attorneys have experience with:
- Paternity disputes;
- Child support negotiations;
- Petitions for deviation from child support guidelines;
- Child support modifications;
- Collection of delinquent child support; and
- Retroactive child support claims.
How Our Experienced Child Support Lawyers Can Help
Child support cases are complicated. As a parent, your rights and interests matter. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we are devoted to providing personalized, solutions-driven guidance and support to parents. With more than 10,000 family cases handled in Wisconsin, our legal team has the experience you can trust. Among other things, our Madison child support attorneys will:
- Hear your story and answer any questions you have about child support;
- Gather and assemble all relevant financial documents and records; and
- Take whatever legal action is needed to protect your financial interests.