When a couple is married, both parents likely contribute financially to the child’s needs. This duty continues in the event of a divorce or a breakup. Even if a child’s parents were never married, both parents must support the child.
Child support payments are set by the state in order to fulfill a child’s basic needs, including food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Learn more about your legal rights regarding child support. Our Wauwatosa child support attorneys at Karp & Iancu, S.C. can help you understand the guidelines, formulas, and processes so your child gets the best care possible from the financial support of both parents.
Child Support Formulas and Guidelines
Child support orders are set by the court and meet state guidelines based on various factors such as:
- Each parent’s gross income
- The number of children involved
- How much time the child spends with each parent
Gross income consists of all taxable and non-taxable income, including wages, tips, bonuses, unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation, and disability benefits. Wisconsin has formulas that determine the amount of child support a parent can expect to pay. Here are the percentages of your income you’ll have to pay based on the number of children:
- One child: 17%
- Two children: 25%
- Three children: 29%
- Four children: 31%
- Five or more children: 34%
For example, a parent who earns $80,000 and has two children will pay about $20,000 in child support per year. You can get that amount reduced, though, if your child spends more than 25% of overnights with you.
Past-Due Child Support in Wisconsin
If child support is not paid on time, it becomes past-due. You cannot simply ignore this obligation. The amount you owed will start to accumulate and you will go into arrears. You could face severe penalties, including jail time.
If a parent owes past-due support, the amount withheld from their paycheck may be increased by up to 50%. For example, if you pay $500 a month, then another $250 may be withheld from your paycheck until you are all caught up with child support payments.
Wisconsin charges interest on past-due support. The interest rate is 0.5% per month (6% a year).
If you are having trouble paying your child support bill, a payment plan can help you make regular payments towards your past-due child support. You may be able to pay smaller, more frequent amounts to fit your current financial situation.
It’s important to follow your payment plan. Be sure to make all payments when they are due. The child support agency can take various actions against you if you aren’t caught up with payments. Your bank accounts, property, and licenses could all be affected. Plus, you won’t be able to get government grants and loans.
Past-due support will continue to be enforced and collected for up to 20 years after the youngest child reaches the age of 18. Income withholding may continue until past-due child support is paid in full.
Child Support Enforcement
If you cannot pay child support, you need to contact a lawyer and file a modification. Do not simply stop paying your support amount. The other parent can enforce the payment by asking the court to take the following actions:
- Wage garnishment. The state can take a portion of your wages directly from your paycheck.
- Tax return interception. The state can intercept your tax refunds and use it for child support.
- Asset seizure. The state can seize a person’s assets, such as cars, bank accounts, or even real estate if they refuse to pay child support.
- Liens. It’s possible for the court to place a lien on a car or home to get child support money.
- License suspension. The state can suspend a parent’s driver’s license or professional license until they get current on child support.
- Fines. A judge might make a parent pay fines for contempt of court as punishment.
- Jail. Jail time is always an option as a last resort. However, it is rarely enforced, as incarceration makes it hard for a parent to make money and pay child support, defeating the purpose.
Modifying Child Support
Life changes and sometimes there are situations in which child support can be modified. A substantial change in circumstances can result in higher or lower child support payments. For example, if the non-custodial parent gets a huge raise or a higher-paying job, then the custodial parent can ask for more child support.
However, most child support modifications involve the non-custodial parent requesting lower child support payments. These requests may be approved under certain circumstances, such as job loss, reduced income, or serious medical condition (such as a disability or terminal illness) that makes it hard to work and earn income.
There are two ways to modify child support. The parents can agree to the new amount and file the necessary papers to make the change. If the parents do not agree, the parent who wants the change needs to file the appropriate paperwork with the court.