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Ensure Fair Child Support in Wisconsin

To ensure fair child support in Wisconsin the first step is understanding what type of action to file

Secure Child Support during a Divorce

Child Support & Divorce

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Enforce Court Ordered Child Support

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End Court Ordered Child Support Payments

End Support Payments

How Courts Determine Child Support Orders

Child support is money paid from the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to create the same standard of living for the child regardless when the child is with either parent. In Wisconsin, child support is calculated using the percentage standard method, which basically is a straight line calculation based on the income of the non-custodial parents multiplied by a certain percentage.

Below is the schedule for calculating child support. To calculate child support multiply the percentage by your gross income on your paycheck.

  • 1 Child – 17%
  • 2 Children – 25%
  • 3 Children – 29%
  • 4 Children – 31%
  • 5+ Children – 34%

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Taxes & Distribution of Child Support Payments

Child Support & Taxes

Child support is tax-neutral, therefore, if you are currently paying child support, it cannot be deducted. If you are currently receiving child support, it is not considered taxable income. However after a divorce, filing your taxes will be a little different due to there being more to take into consideration.

Exemptions for Dependents
Exemptions for dependents would be based the time spent with both, the custodial, and noncustodial parent within the tax year. Most children living at home are considered dependents, as long as they meet a few basic requirements, such as:

  • Your child is considered a dependent if he/she was under 19 at the end of the taxable year
  • If your child was under 24 and a full-time student
  • If your child is disabled
  • Your child lived with you for at least 51% of the tax year
  • If your child did not contribute to their own support

You and the noncustodial parent may, in some cases, agree to allow the noncustodial parent to make the dependent exemptions for one, or all of the children. The non-custodial parent may take the exemption if:

  • you are both legally divorced or legally separated, or lived apart for the latter six months of the tax year
  • your child lived with either both, you, or the non-custodial parent for a minimum of the last six months of the year
  • more than half of your child’s support was paid during the year by you and your spouse
  • the separation agreement or divorce order states that you may have the exemption, or your spouse signs a legal declaration forfeiting the exemption(s)

Head of Household Status
Just like married or single, head of household is a filing status that may be claimed if you have custody and the child is physically present under your care for more than half of the year. You will receive a lower standard deduction rate, and your tax rate will also be lower than if you file separately as married, or single. You may claim head of household under the following circumstances:

  • If you had a child or other qualifying individual living with you for more than six months out of the tax year
  • If you have contributed to the majority of your household and/or living expenses during the taxable year
  • If you are not married or legally defined as “considered unmarried”

An experienced family law attorney can consult you on the appropriate filing status, and further define what legally constitutes “considered unmarried”.

Tax Credits
There are several available tax credits for parents aside from dependent exemptions. There are some very basic guidelines which explain the criteria and standards to meet in order to qualify for these credits. You may qualify for the earned income credit, for example, if you are a parent who has earned income below the accepted standard for your number of qualified dependents. The child tax credit applies to the parent of a child who is under 17 years of age, who lived with you for over half of the year and did not contribute more than half of the expenses related to their own support.

Distribution of Child Support Payments

Direct payment is not uncommon payment method among agreeable parties. This may seem like an ideal scenario, and it has worked out well for some. However, if the non-custodial parent becomes disinclined to honor the arrangement and fails to make payments on time, or in the amount agreed upon, further action must be taken to enforce orders. An income withholding order is one example of an action most commonly pursued. The downside to the direct payment method, however, is embarking on withholding orders or similar actions may take longer to execute than if they were pursued from the start.

Income Withholding Orders
An automatic income withholding order can be placed during child support orders, allowing for the garnishment of wages directly from the employer of the non-custodial parent. This means the custodial parent does not have to wait for the non-custodial parent to honor prior agreements, rather issues are avoided and the agreed upon amount is automatically deducted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. The state will process the payment and send it directly to the custodial parent. This is ideal for some, as it is a way to guarantee proper delivery in the expected amount each month. In some cases, it is preferable for the non-custodial parent, as well. It prevents cases of unforeseen, problematic events. This way, both parties are ensured that the amount of support and timeliness of the payments are met.

Child Support Enforcement Agency
The Child Support Enforcement Agency or CSEA is good at establishing compliance for child support orders. You can leverage the CSEA to enforce payment collections, processing and disbursement. They can also assist in the procurement of health or medical insurance as it is set forth in an order, and creating a payment plan in the event of back-support.

Things You Should Know Before You Proceed

Use of Support Payments

Child support is the ongoing payment made, from one parent to another, for the financial benefit of a child after a civil union between the parents’ has ended. The non-custodial parent usually pays child support, to the parent who has custody of the child. Sometimes referred to as child maintenance, child support is usually an ongoing payment paid until the child turns eighteen or circumstances no longer require child support.

There are very clear regulations for how the money from child support payments can be used. Child support was established so that both parents are contributing to their child’s expenses. For this reason, child support should be used on the child’s primary needs, including food and clothing. In some cases, the court may put terms in the child support order for specific items the child support should be used for.

It is important to remember that child support is established to maintain the best interests of the child and provide them with the best life that can be afforded. Although a divorce is a common reason why two parents become separated and child support is established, it is not the only scenario. The court is not going to treat your child support case differently based on the relationship of the parents.

Child support will be awarded to the parent based on the financial status of each individual parent, among other factors. Unmarried parents and parents who never even had a relationship will go through the same child support process as those formerly married parents.

Interstate Family Support Act

There used to be a time when multiple states could legally have jurisdiction over child support orders. This leads to multiple orders, overpayment, and conflicting rulings. To correct this problem, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act sets up parameters to ensure that only one state is given jurisdiction when it comes to establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support related cases. This act doesn’t apply to child support cases where multiple states would potentially be involved.

Child Support Legal Jurisdiction
The UIFSA honors the child’s home state as the state that will have jurisdiction over the child support orders. Jurisdiction not only grants the state in which the matters will be held, but also the laws that will be applied. This is important to note because different states have different child support laws in place. The child’s “home state” is generally defined as where the child has lived the last six months.

If the child hasn’t lived in a state for six months prior to the trial, the state where the child has spent more time or where they have stronger family ties should be granted jurisdiction.

Duration of Child Support

The duration of a child support order varies, but in most cases durations of support lasts until the child turns 18.

High School, College & Trade School Years
In most cases even if a child turns 18 while in high school, college or trade schools it is determined support will be enforced. Noncustodial parents are usually ordered to pay support as long as their child remains a full-time student.

The pre-planning of college tuition is a very important step while negotiating an amicable divorce settlement. Even if the child or children are very young, this step cannot be overstated. Considerations should be given to several areas:

  • The costs associated with long-term college attendance while pursuing substantial degrees, or multiple degrees.
  • The needs of the child while attending college including books and materials, living expenses, and other associated costs.
  • Financial aid, student loans and grants.

These options may alleviate some of the financial burden, however, both parents and their current spouses’ income will play a major part in qualifying for these financial assistance programs.

Change of Legal Status
Although, remaining a full-time students keeps noncustodial parents on the hook for child support past age 18 there are guidelines in the child support code which ends support obligations. If your child does any of the following support obligations will end immediately.

  • joins the military
  • gets married
  • becomes emancipated

Questions Clients Ask About Child Support

Can I get child support if we have 50 50 custody?

Joint custody doesn’t cancel child support obligations. In the case of 50/50 custody, the higher earning parent generally pays child support to the lower earner to ensure the children’s standard of living is the same in both locations.

What if I am behind in my child support payments?

If you fail to pay your court-ordered child support, the court could find you in contempt of court and could order your employer to take part of your paycheck to pay for the child support. Failure to pay could also result in a lien placed on all your personal property, suspension of your driver’s, hunting, or fishing licenses, tax intercept, credit bureau reporting, and possible jail time.

How is Child Support Calculated in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin uses overnights, or where the children sleep, to determine how much child support should be paid by the non-residential parent. Joint custody payments vary depending on overnights, but for sole custody, the court uses the standard percentage model based on the number of children.

  • For 1 child, it is 17%
  • For 2 children, it is 25%
  • For 3 children it is 29%
  • For 4 children, it is 31%
  • For 5 children, it is 34%

Pick an Action to Begin Securing Child Custody in Wisconsin

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Modify and Adjust Child Support Orders

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End Payments

Modify and Adjust Child Support Orders

It’s not uncommon for circumstances to change that may require the child support order to be adjusted. If you feel like your child support order needs to be adjusted, the first thing you should try doing is talking with the other parent of your child.

Proving a Change in Circumstances

If you can’t reach an agreement, you’ll need to go to court and seek modifying of your original child support agreement. It is not worth asking the court to modify it if you can’t make a strong case for a major change in circumstances.

Here are just a few of the more common examples that would get the court’s attention and consider modifying the order.

  • Medical Emergencies
  • Loss of Income
  • Increase in Income
  • Change in the Law

What WILL NOT Work in Court

Before you spend the time and resources to attempt to modify child support, understand the following common examples that are unlikely to lead to a change in custody.

  • Failure to allow visitation to the non-custodial parent. If you are not receiving visitation rights that were agreed upon in the original custody hearing, courts can reinforce the custody agreement. But the court will not change the support order.
  • Change of circumstances for the custodial parent. Just because financial circumstances have changed either positively or negatively, it is unlikely the court will determine an increase or decrease in support is appropriate.
  • An arrearage in child support payments.
  • The custodial parent legally moving the child without violating the custody agreements, the court will not consider this as a factor to change child support.

Enforce Court Ordered Child Support

Child support laws are enforced aggressively when payments become delinquent as parents are required by law to financially provide for their children.

Failure to pay child support is considered contempt of court, a very serious offense. If a parent has repeatedly failed to pay the child support they owe, you’ll likely be served and ordered to appear in court for a child support hearing. Failure to show up to court will lead to a warrant for your arrest and possible jail time. No matter what the circumstances are, the parent who owes child support should do everything in their power to pay what they owe or at minimum, be in touch with the other parent and the courts to explain why they haven’t been paying. But a lack of payment and a lack of reason is likely to lead to arrest rather quickly.

Wage Garnishments

The most common form of arrears collecting is in the form of wage garnishment. The court will determine what percentage of wages can be garnished based upon the amount owed in child support.

Intercepting Pension Payments

Under section 49.852 of Wisconsin Statutes the Department of Children and Families may direct the department of employee trust funds to intercept funds to fulfill a child support lien for the obligor.

Liens Against Property

Under Wisconsin Statue 49.854 the Department of Children and Families may enforce a legal lien against accounts at financial institutions, personal property, real estate, or against rights to property.

Suspend or Restrict License

Under Wisconsin Statue 49.857 the Department of Children and Families may restrict, deny renewal, and or suspend licensure of any license granted from the department of safety and professional services.

End Court Ordered Child Support

Unless specifically stated in your child support agreement, child support should be paid until the child becomes an adult. In the state of Wisconsin, that would be when the child turns 18.

You can’t end child support payments simply because you don’t feel like the child support agreement is unfair. If you truly believe that the support agreement is unfair, you would first need to request to modify the payments with the court. Successfully doing so will not eliminate the payments, it will only adjust the payments according to the new circumstances.

Child Emancipation

If a child files to be emancipated from the one or both of the parents the court may allow the payor to cease paying child support.

Terminate Parental Rights

If the court or other circumstances terminate a parents parental rights then the obligation to pay child support would also terminate.

Third Party Child Adoption

During an adoption, parents who previously had the responsibility of caring for a child no longer bare the responsibility, which means the obligation of paying child support also ceases.

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