Will an Increase in Income Cause Child Support to Increase?

Your support payments may increase, but not automatically by the court. You may be correct with your belief on support not being based on future earnings after the divorce began, however that is only with support being given to an ex-spouse, not a child. Your spouse does have the right to request an increase, but it is up to the courts whether or not to grant the increase in child support.

In Sommer v. Sommer 108 Wis.2d 586, 323 N.W.2d 144 (Ct. App. 1982)[1] the court of appeals ruled that child support is for children to receive the financial needs that would occur in a regular marriage, therefore child support ​can look past the marriage. Divorce separates the bond between a couple, not between a parent and child. If one side receives benefits in the future, the court will look to mold these non-taxable child support payments paid to the recipient based on the benefits.

Assuming that the increase merely justifies the expansion of your family, then it would be unlikely that an increase would be granted. This can be explained through the case of Hime v. Muir 128 Wis. 2d 293, 381 N.W.2d 607 (Ct. App. 1985)[2] where a request was denied because the income increase was not significant enough to justify an increase in support payments. This was based on the fact that the ex-husband also began a new family. The increase requested may have resulted in decreasing the quality of life the ex-husband and his new family were accustomed to. This is only one example of how this could play out though.

When Can a Spouse Seek Increased Child Support Payments?

Increasing support payments was discussed in Long v. Wasielewski, 147 Wis.2d 57, 432 N.W.2d 615 (Ct. App. 1988).[3] The court said support payments only get increased when requested by the partying receiving payments and only if there was a significant change in circumstances. However, the court can still reject increase in support if the change is not significant enough or if it would make the support payments unfair.

In the case of Jeske v. Jeske 138 Wis. 2d 268, 405 N.W.2d 757 (Ct. App. 1987)[4] (Affirmed by 144 Wis. 2d 364, 424 N.W.2d 196 (1988)), the husband sought to dismiss a motion brought forth by his ex-wife to seek an increase based on the notion that she was not represented by the Division of Child Support Enforcement because he was not late on any payments. The trial court dismissed the ex-wife's motion. She appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. However, this does not mean that court will grant her this increase. There are several factors that may attribute to the justification of an increase, including whether there was a significant change in income.

Can a Non-Liable Spouse's Income Be Used to Determine Ability to Pay?

If the non-liable spouse's income changes and if the court is not ordering your spouse to pay child support, in some cases, they may take their income into consideration when determining your ability to pay. This is because it changes the equation of earned income based on both parties ability to pay. In other words, if you make minimum wage, but your current spouse makes $250,000 per year, the amount owed may be based upon the joint income of you and your spouse. This was also demonstrated in the case of J.G.W. v. Outagamie Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs. (In the Interest of A.L.W.) 153 Wis. 2d 412, 451 N.W.2d 416 (1990).[5] In this case, the court ruled the legality of the determination of both, the husband and the current wife's income in regards to the support award.

References:[1]Wisconsin Legislature: 767.501, [2]Hime v. Muir 128 Wis. 2d 293, 381 N.W.2d 607 (Ct. App. 1985), [3]Long v. Wasielewski, 147 Wis.2d 57, 432 N.W.2d 615 (Ct. App. 1988), [4]Jeske v. Jeske 138 Wis. 2d 268, 405 N.W.2d 757 (Ct. App. 1987), [5]J.G.W. v. Outagamie Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs.

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