Wisconsin Child Support Laws

In Wisconsin, child support is the legal obligation of a parent to financially provide for their child. Child support obligations are determined based on state law. If parents don’t agree on support, the court can order a parent to pay. Support calculations are based on things like physical placement and each party’s net or gross income.

Wisconsin Child Support Laws

Who Gets Child Support

A parent has to pay child support either when both parents think it should be paid or when the court orders it to be paid.

Child Support in a Divorce

Child support can be a part of any divorce case that involves children. The child custody and support issues will be decided alongside the other issues like child custody, property division, and alimony.

Child Support in Custody/Paternity

Child support can be part of any custody or paternity case. Support will get decided alongside custody and placement after paternity has been established.

Child Support Adjustments

Once there is a child support order, that order may need to be changed or enforced. If an order is more than 33 months old or a major change has occurred, you can file to modify the orders. Or, if a party doesn’t pay the support, you can file to enforce the current order.

Child Support Laws In Wisconsin

The Child Support Process

The exact process that decides child support depends on whether it is part of a divorce or custody case. This is a general outline of how most cases that involve child support look. For more in-depth information on the process, visit our page outlining what it looks like to work with us from start to finish.

Step 1


When you file your case, be sure to use the correct paperwork. There are different documents needed depending on the specifics of your case.

Step 2

Temporary Orders

Temporary orders outline how child support will look during your case. They also determine things like immediate property division and custody schedules during the divorce.

Step 3


Mediation is an option for parents looking to resolve child support disputes in a more cooperative and civil manner. During this process, both parties work with a neutral mediator to reach a mutually agreeable child support arrangement. Once an agreement has been made, it gets presented to the court for approval.

Step 4

Pretrial Conference

The conference prepares the judge for the trial, or the case can end here if the parties agree on how to settle everything.

Step 5

Final Negotiations

In the time before the trial date, there is one more chance to negotiate a settlement. Many cases that have not yet settled settle here because a trial is expensive. However, when the other party is unwilling to see reason, a trial can be necessary.

Step 6

Trial and Finalization

In the trial, all evidence is laid out and each side makes their case for how the final order should be.
After the trial, the judge makes their decisions and lays out the final orders.

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Key Components

Child support is a part of either a divorce or child custody case. This means decisions around child support are made alongside other topics such as child custody and property division.
To learn more about topics surrounding child support, follow the links provided below. For advice specific to your case, call Sterling Lawyers.

Child Support

Child support is when one parent pays the other to balance out the cost of raising a child. It is most often paid when one parent has the child more often or when one parent makes significantly more than the other.

Child Support Calculator

One parent pays child support when there is an imbalance in income or in placement time. Child support is meant to support the child and create a positive living situation with each parent. How much child support a party pays can be calculated using our child support calculator.

End Support Orders

Child support ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes second. Child support can also be terminated in other situations such as when a parent terminates their parental rights.

How Custody Works

The Wisconsin child custody laws outline how the court determines child custody. Custody is the parents’ ability to make major decisions in the child’s life. The court assumes that both parents will share custody unless one parent is a danger to the child.

Placement Schedules

Placement is who the child lives with day-to-day. There are many different placement schedules and the best one for your family will depend on each party’s needs and schedules.


Before custody or support can even be discussed paternity needs to be established. Paternity is automatically established through marriage if the parents are married. If not, the parents will need to legally establish paternity in a different way.

Child Custody

Whether there is one child or five, it’s rarely easy to figure out child custody and placement and child support. Parents first try to find a compromise together. If the parents can't agree, the court decides based on the child's best interests.


Child support is a common occurrence in divorce cases that involve children. And child support looks the same whether it comes from a custody case or divorce case.

Divorce Types

What type of divorce you get will depend on how well you get along with the other party. If you agree on everything with the other party, it can be an uncontested divorce. If you are able to work with the other party, you can get a mediated divorce. And if you and the other party do not get along, you should get a contested divorce.

Property Division in Divorce

Property division is a major part of divorces because it impacts the finances of both parties. This part of the divorce divides up all assets from the marital home to retirement accounts to debts. Things are generally split 50/50.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is child support determined in Wisconsin?

The two factors that impact child custody the most are the number of overnights each party has and how much money each party makes. These are the factors that both determine if child support is needed and how much child support is paid. To estimate child support in your situation, use our child support calculator.

What rights do fathers have in Wisconsin?

Once paternity is established, the father’s rights are the same as the mothers. Fathers have the right to pursue custody and if the other parent refuses, then the court will decide on placement and custody.

Can parents agree to no child support in Wisconsin?

Child support is not required in Wisconsin. If neither party wants it, neither party has to pay it. And, if the court orders one party to pay it, the party receiving it can say no to it.

What is a serial family?

A “serial-family parent” is a parent who has child support obligations to more than one child, and those children are in different families.

How is custody determined in Wisconsin?

Custody is determined either by an agreement between the parents or by the court’s orders. If the court has to decide, they base their decisions on the best interests of the child.

What are child support laws in Wisconsin?

There are a variety of laws that impact child support in Wisconsin. The main laws come from the chapters that cover the Department of Children and Families (DCF) including chapters 102, 142, and 150-153.

How often is child support reviewed in WI?

Child support orders are reviewed every three years. They can be updated sooner if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. If you need to update child support, file to modify child support.
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