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Child Support Laws in Wisconsin

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child support

Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person can ever go through, right up there with death in the family, and it affects everyone, including the children, who might secretly be internalizing their parents’ problems or think they are to blame.

Not having enough money to support your children once the divorce is over only serves to compound these problems, leading to bitterness and frustration on the part of the custodial spouse and guilt and avoidance on the part of the non-custodial spouse.

Wisconsin Child Support Laws

The premise from which Wisconsin determines its child support guidelines is simple: children have a legal right to receive support from each one of their parents. Thus, Wisconsin courts use a “Percentage of Income Standard” to determine how much support the non-custodial parent may owe. This standard considers the income of the parent, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and whether the parent is financially responsible for other children.

The standard percentage of income guideline is as follows:

  • 17 percent of income for one child.
  • 25 percent for two children.
  • 29 percent for three children.
  • 31 percent for four children.
  • 34 percent for five or more children.

Wisconsin courts have discretion over special cases, in which more or less support than the standard is warranted. However, divorcing spouses will find that family court has evolved to create formulas for the most common special circumstances, such as the case of high-income payers.

Some other special circumstances are

  • Shared placement of the children, which the court defines as each parent having the child for at least 25 percent of the time.
  • Split placement, or when one or more children reside with each parent.
  • Support of more than one family.

The court determines the non-custodial parent’s income by looking at a variety of sources, including typical wages, ability to earn, investment interest or dividends, compensation benefits, unemployment, social security disability benefits, veterans’ benefits, and retirement income.

Child support should provide dependents with basic expenses, including health insurance, housing, and personal care. In the state of Wisconsin, support is mandated until a child turns 18 or 19 if still enrolled in HS or a GED program.

Nonpayment of Child Support is a Criminal Offense

The debt from nonpayment carries a hefty fine in the form of interest charges on past-due cases: .5 percent per month, or six percent per year. Child support agencies can enforce payment in some of the following ways:


  • Intercepting the debtor’s taxes.
  • Placing a lien on their property.
  • Suspending or restricting professional or recreational licenses.
  • Denying the debtor a U.S. passport.

As a measure of last resort, the court can file charges against delinquent parents. The Wisconsin state district attorney decides which cases to prosecute upon individual review.

GCW Supports You

The Wisconsin family lawyers at Gingras, Cates, and Wachs understand that divorce doesn’t stop the bills from coming. Our goal is to help families understand their legal rights and maintain their sanity during these stressful times. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your options going forward.