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Wisconsin Child Support
Child Support in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, either parent may be ordered to pay child support, health care expenses and health insurance for the child. The courts consider the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child;
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had continued;
  • the physical, mental and emotional, and educational needs of the child;
  • the parents' financial resources, income, earning power, needs and obligations;
  • the age and health of the child;
  • the best interest of the child;
  • maintenance received by either party;
  • the desirability of the parent with custody to remain in the home as a full-time parent;
  • the cost of day care if the parent with custody works outside the home, or the value of the childcare provided by the parent;
  • tax consequences;
  • any joint custody arrangements;
  • any extraordinary travel expenses incurred by exercising the right of physical placement;
  • the needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is obliged to support;
  • and any other relevant factors.

The courts may order a parent to find a job. Also, the courts may order alimony and child support payments to be combined into one "family support" payment.

The official Wisconsin Child Support guidelines are followed unless the parents have agreed to an amount approved by the courts, or the courts determine the guidelines are unjust for a particular case.

Wisconsin uses the percent of income method to calculate child support payments. Adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1983, the noncustodial parent who does not have custody pays 17 percent of his gross pay for one child and up to 34 percent for five or more children, as described in Section DWD 40.03 (1) of the Wisconsin Code.

The state guidelines are generally based on a percentage of the net income of the parent ordered to pay child support, as follows:

  • 17 percent for one child;
  • 25 percent for two children;
  • 29 percent for three children;
  • 31 percent for four children; and
  • 34 percent for five or more children.

There are official guidelines and percentage standards for child support available from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services. The court may require that child support payments be guaranteed by an assignment of income, that the payments are made through the clerk of the court, or that health insurance be provided for the children. Child support is described in Wisconsin Statutes Annotated; Sections 767.10, 767.25, 767.261, 767.265, 767.27, and 767.29.

After deciding custody, the court orders child support payments made by the noncustodial parent (who is usually the father) to the custodial parent (who is usually the mother). The paying parent generally must pay a percentage of his or her gross income based on the number of children he or she is supporting, ranging from 17 percent to 34 percent. However, courts consider the earning potential of the payer, so if that person is capable of earning $1,000 a month, for example, the amount he or she has to pay will be based on that amount, whether he or she actually earns it or not.

Wisconsin treats shared and split placements differently. When a child resides with a parent 25 percent of the time, Section DWD 40.04 (2) of the Wisconsin Code describes a complex five-step process that requires legal advice to expedite. Twenty-five percent means about 110 overnights per year, or nine nights per month, which is roughly two nights a week.

When some children live with one parent and some with the other, as is the case in split placements, each parent must pay to the other parent the percentage-of-income share applicable to how many children are living with him or her, according to Section DWD 40.02 (27) of the Wisconsin Code.

Calculate Wisconsin Child Support

Other Expenses and Deductions

Extraordinary expenses are either add-ons, where the expense is added to the support payment, or deductions, where the amount is deducted, and indicated as either mandatory or permissive. Childcare costs are considered deviation factors. Extraordinary medical costs are mandatory deductions.

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. If it is not, then the courts may require either parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent's employment, he or she is required to use it for the children.

Child Support Enforcement

Here are some of the tools used by Wisconsin to enforce court ordered child support payments:

  • income withholding;
  • liens on real estate property, vehicles, or other assets;
  • driver's license suspension or revocation;
  • passport denial, revocation or restriction;
  • income tax offsets;
  • certifying debts;
  • suspension or revocation of professional and hunting/fishing licenses;
  • and reporting to credit bureaus.

A deadbeat may be sent to jail and enter a judgment for past due support.

More information about Wisconsin Child Support Enforcement can be found at their website.


Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Deviation Factors

In three situations, the courts do not strictly apply the percentages. These are:

  • the serial family, where a spouse supports two different parties;
  • a shared-time payer, where the payer spends more than 110 nights per year with the children; and
  • general deviation, where the individual circumstances warrant adjustments.

In this, the court considers factors that might make support payments unfair either to the other party or the children, including the finances of the parents, the "financial interests" of the children, support received by either spouse and the needs of others who receive support.

Wisconsin allows for low-income and high-income exceptions. A low-income exception applies to a parent who earns between 75 percent and 125 percent of federal poverty guidelines who probably would not be able to meet any of his or her own costs of living if forced to pay child support according to the percentage standard. In this instance, a scale is provided within Chapter DWD 40, Appendix C of the Wisconsin Code setting income shares as low as 11.13 percent for one child.

At the other end, high-income exceptions target parents with gross monthly incomes of $7,000 per month or more. They drop the requirement to 14 percent for one child up to 27 percent for four or more children. These adjustments are made because the percentage-of-income standard would create a child support obligation at this level of income in excess of what can be considered reasonably necessary for the support of a child.

Serial family statutes apply to a parent who already has a support obligation to another child or children. Section DWD 40.04 (1) of the Wisconsin Code provides that the percentage-of-income standard remains the same, but the percentage is applied after subtracting from his or her income the child support that he is already paying. Wisconsin operates under the presumption that the prior existing family should not be penalized because a parent chose to create a second family.

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