Understanding Child Support Obligations in Wisconsin
Under Wisconsin state law, both of a child’s legal parents have a general duty to provide support. Following a divorce, separation, or informal split, one parent may be required to pay child support to the other. In Wisconsin, child custody—defined in the state as decision-making authority—has no direct bearing on child support. In fact, child support could still be required in a case where divorced parents in Waukesha have equal custody rights.
Physical placement of a child—where they spend their time—could have an impact on child support in Wisconsin. However, there is no guarantee that the parent with the majority of physical placement will receive child support. In some cases, a parent who spends the majority of the nights with their child may not be entitled to receive child support and/or may be required to pay child support. Child support is always determined on a fact-specific basis in Wisconsin.
What to Know About Our State’s Child Support Guidelines
Beyond physical placement of the child, the other key factors that will determine child support obligations in Wisconsin are the gross income of the parents and the number of kids being supported. Our state has generalized support guidelines in place (Wis. Stat. § 767.511). Here is a basic overview of how much support is called for under the Wisconsin guidelines:
- One Child: 17% of gross income.
- Two Children: 25% of gross income.
- Three Children: 29% of gross income.
- Four Children: 31% of gross income.
- Five or More Children: 34% of gross income.
In Wisconsin, child support guidelines are meant to set a standardized baseline. Courts will presume that the guidelines are appropriate for your case. However, courts also recognize that Wisconsin’s child support guidelines do not produce equitable results in every case. As such, you can get a deviation from the child support guidelines—either for more or less child support—if you can show good cause.
Note: In Wisconsin, the amount of child support is generally based on the payer’s gross income if the payer has placement less than 25 percent of the time. Otherwise, the amount of child support is determined based on the gross income of both parents.
How Should Child Support Be Paid in Wisconsin?
There is a specific manner in which child support should be paid in Wisconsin. Our state has one of the most highly-structured systems for collecting child support in the entire country. As a general rule in Wisconsin, parents should not handle child support informally. Instead, they should ensure that all child support payments are routed through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund (WI SCTF). This will reduce the risks of disputes or other legal problems. Payment options that can be used through the system maintained by the WI SCTF include:
- Automatic withholding of income;
- Direct online payments;
- Phone-based payments; and
- Mail-based payments.
When parents use the WI SCTF process to make child support payments, there will be a clear and unambiguous record of how much was paid and when it was paid. This reduces the risk of disputes or other problems in the child support process.
Your Guide to Child Support Enforcement in Wisconsin
Are you owed child support by a co-parent? If so, you have the right to take action to collect on the amount that is past due. In Wisconsin, there are several different tools available for enforcing child support. Depending on the case, you may be able to collect overdue child support through:
- Garnishing wages;
- Levying a bank account;
- Seizing real property; or
- Intercepting a tax refund.
In Wisconsin, a parent who cannot pay child support for legitimate financial reasons can seek a modification to get a reduction of the amount that is due. Though, they must petition for a child support reduction with the proper court. Parents do not have the right to reduce or hold back child support on their own.
Our Family Law Firm Handles All Types of Child Support Cases in Waukesha
For more than three decades, our law firm has provided solutions-driven family law representation across a wide range of legal matters. Our Waukesha family law attorneys have the skills and legal knowledge to help clients with all types of child support cases. Child support disputes that we have experience with in Southeastern Wisconsin include:
- Paternity cases;
- Negotiation of child support;
- Filing for a child support deviation (more or less);
- Modifying a child support order or agreement;
- Collection efforts for back due child support; and
- A claim for retroactive child support.
Why Work With Our Wisconsin Child Support Lawyer
Child support cases are complicated. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., we have experience handling all aspects of child support cases. Whether you are paying or receiving support, our family law team is ready to take a proactive approach to protect your rights and interests. Among other things, our Waukesha child support lawyer will:
- Listen to your story and answer your questions about child support obligations;
- Investigate the matter, gathering relevant financial documents and records; and
- Develop a customized legal strategy focused on helping you get the best outcome.