Establishing Child Support and Child Support Guidelines
The law is clear that every parent must financially support their children, regardless of each parent’s involvement in the child’s life. Children have a legal right to receive support from both of their parents. In Wisconsin, we use a Child Support Percentage of Income Standard to determine this. This is outlined in Wisconsin Administrative Code – DCF 150.
Child support is intended to cover the basic expenses of having a child, including food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation, personal care, and health insurance.
Who can initiate a child support action? Any of the following:
- The person’s spouse.
- The minor child.
- The person with legal custody of the child.
- A non-legally responsible relative.
How much? The court must then determine the amount, if any, that the person should reasonably contribute to the support and maintenance of the spouse or child and how the sum shall be paid. The amount shall be expressed as a fixed sum unless the parties have stipulated to expressing the amount as a percentage of the payer’s income.
The standard percentage of income guideline in Wisconsin for child support is:
- 17% of income for 1 child
- 25% of income for 2 children
- 29% of income for 3 children
- 31% of income for 4 children
- 34% of income for 5 or more children
However, the court can still deviate from the standard if it would be unfair to either the child or one of the parents. Special child support guidelines exist for parents who:
- Share placement of their children (child with each parent at least 25% of the time)
- Split the placement of their children (Ex.: one parent has one child; the other parent has another)
- Support more than one family
- Have a Low income
- Have a High income
No matter which guideline is used, the income of the parents must be determined. Wisconsin considers the following sources to be income:
- Wages, salaries, earnings, tips, commissions, and bonuses from work
- Interest and capital gains from investments or property
- Worker’s compensation benefits or personal injury awards intended to replace income
- Unemployment insurance
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), but not Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other public assistance
- Military allowances and veterans’ benefits
- Voluntary retirement contributions, cafeteria plans, and undistributed income of a corporation
Child support can also be based on a parent’s ability to earn based on past earnings, current health, education, work experience, history as primary care giver, and availability of jobs locally. Income can also look to intangible or non-cash sources, such as life insurance, cash, deposit accounts, stocks, bonds, and business interests.
How long? Parents have an obligation to pay child support until the child turns 18 or 19 if still enrolled in high school or a GED course. Additionally, you still owe past due child support after your child turns 18. Past due child support cases can be opened up to 20 years after the youngest child on the order turns 18.
What if I don’t pay? When a parent doesn’t pay child support, the debt becomes past-due. The interest charged on past-due child support in Wisconsin is .5% per month or 6% per year. Child support agencies can enforce a child support order by:
- Intercepting the debtor’s federal or state income tax refunds or tribal per capita payments
- Denying the parent who owes support a U.S. passport, college grants, or small business loans
- Placing a lien on the debtor’s property that must be paid off before the property can be sold
- Suspending or restricting a professional, recreational, or driver’s license
If you need help with child support, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond du Lac counties.