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

Modify and Adjust Child Support Orders

Enforce Court Ordered Child Support

End Court Ordered Child Support Payments

How Courts Determine Child Support Orders

Child support is money paid from the noncustodial 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. Basically, it's a straight line calculation based on the income of the noncustodial parent 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%

Want to Estimate Child Support Payments?

Wisconsin child support calculator

Get an estimate of what child support may look like in your divorce case. We used the percentage standard method to calculate support payments for you.

Taxes & Distribution of Child Support Payments

Child Support & Taxes

Child support is tax-neutral, therefore, if you're currently paying child support, it can't be deducted. On the other hand, if you're currently receiving child support, it's not considered taxable income. However, filing your taxes after a divorce will be a little different due to a few extra things that need to be taken into consideration. 

Exemptions for Dependents

Exemptions for dependents (and if you're able to claim a dependent at all) are based on how much time the child spends 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

As the custodial parent, you may, in some cases, agree to allow the noncustodial parent to make the dependent exemptions for one, or all of the children. The noncustodial 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 noncustodial 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. For example, you may qualify for the earned income credit if you're 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

Simply paying support directly to the custodial parent is a somewhat common payment method among agreeable parties. While it may seem like an ideal scenario and has worked out well for some, it has some drawbacks. If the noncustodial parent decides, for whatever reason, to stop paying or to pay less than they owe, it's much harder to collect what's due. In this situation, since the two parties have taken it upon themselves to pay and receive payments there is no one who can act on your behalf should one side not hold up their end of the bargain.

In the cases where there is non-payment, an action would have to be taken by the court to collect the money owed. An income withholding order is one example of an action most commonly pursued. If that were to happen, setting up a withholding order or a similar action 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 payments to come directly out of the noncustodial parent's paycheck. This means the custodial parent doesn't have to wait for the non-custodial parent to honor prior agreements. Instead, any personal 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 noncustodial 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 consistent.

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 if there's a problem. They can also assist in the procurement of health or medical insurance as it is set forth in an order, and create a payment plan in the event of back-support being owed. To get DCF assistance, contact your county child support enforcement office.

Things You Should Know Before You Proceed

Use of Support Payments

Child support is defined as 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 contribute 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's 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.

Interstate Family Support Act

There used to be a time when multiple states could legally have jurisdiction over child support orders. This lead 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 has jurisdiction over the child support orders. Jurisdiction not only grants the state in which any further matters will be arbitrated, 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 is usually 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 spouse's income will play a major part in qualifying for these financial assistance programs.

Change of Legal Status

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

  • joins the military
  • gets married
  • becomes emancipated

Pick an Action to Begin Securing Child Custody in Wisconsin

Secure Child Support during a Divorce

Modify and Adjust Child Support Orders

Enforce Court Ordered Child Support

End Court Ordered Child Support

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