Whenever a Wisconsin court enters a judgment for divorce or legal separation, or issues a
custody/placement order in some other action affecting the family, it must make a determination
about child support. Wisconsin child support law consists of four basic rules:
The fundamental rule, which the court should use unless a reason exists for using one of the
other rules or deviating from the results of the fundamental rule, is that of the percentage
standards established under Wis. Statute 49.22(9) and published as HSS 80.03 of the Wis.
Administrative Code. Under this rule, the noncustodial parent pays child support to the
custodial parent based on a percentage of the payer's "base income" (gross income plus any
imputed income). The percentage is based on the number of children to be supported, and the
percentages are as follows:
17% for one child
25% for two children
29% for three children
31 % for four children
34% for five or more children
A serial payer rule for a payer who has a pre-existing child support obligation for other
The rule in effect deducts the amount of any pre-existing child support obligation from
the payer's base income before applying the appropriate percentage standard to the adjusted base
income for the new child support obligation.
A shared-time rule for parents who have shared placement of their children: This rule actually
consists of two rules:
If the parent with less placement time has the children from 31% to 40% of the time,
the amount of child support under the percentage standards is reduced according to a table which
increases the amount of the reduction with each increase in the percent of time the parent has the
children; for example, a parent who has the children 38% of the time has the child support
amount reduced to 73.36% of the amount obtained by the percentage standard, whereas a parent
who the children 32% of the time has the child support amount reduced to 93.34% of the
amount obtained by the percentage standard.
For parents who share the children so that each parent has the children from between
41% to 59% of the time, child support is determined for both parents based on a reduction of the
amount determined under the percentage standards, and then the lesser obligation is deducted
from the greater obligation giving a net child support obligation for the parent with the greater
obligation. As with the first shared-time rule, the reduction of the child support obligation under
the percentage standards is obtained according to a table which increases the amount of the
reduction with each increase in the percent of time the parent has the children; for example, a
parent who has the children 42% of the time has the child support amount reduced to 60.04% of
the amount obtained by the percentage standard, whereas a parent who the children 58% of the
time has the child support amount reduced to 6.76% of the amount obtained by the percentage
standard. After the reduced obligations are determined for both parents, the lesser obligation is
deducted from the greater obligation giving a net child support obligation for the parent with the
A split-custody rule for parents who have split the custody of children between them.
This rule is much simpler than the shared-time rule. The child support obligations are first calculated
for both parents based upon the number of children in the other parent's custody, then the child
support obligation of the parent with the greater obligation is reduced by subtracting the other
parent's obligation from the greater obligation, giving a net child support obligation.
In addition to the above four rules, the court may further modify a child support obligation if it
finds by the greater weight of the credible evidence that use of the above rules obtains a result
which is unfair to the children or to any of the parties. In making such a determination, the court
should consider several relevant factors including the financial resources of both parties, the
needs of each party to support himself or herself and other dependents, the earning capacities of
both parties, and several other relevant factors.
The Wisconsin Statute governing child support is s. 767.25.
"A Plain English Guide to Protecting Your Children"
Mary L. Boland, Attorney at Law
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