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Divorce Attorneys for

Child Support

in Wisconsin

Southeastern Wisconsin Child Support Lawyers

Child support payments in Wisconsin are calculated based on the number of children and both parents’ gross monthly income. Contact Divergent Family Law for guidance through even the most complex child support cases. We advocate for you at every step and fight for the settlement you deserve.

Income-based child support payments

Child support in Wisconsin is determined by the income of the parent who does not have primary placement. For a shared placement schedule, both parents’ income is taken into consideration. “Income” in this circumstance refers to all sources, both taxable and untaxable. An untaxable source like a retirement fund 401(k) is considered income under Wisconsin statutes. Other income sources include wages, bonuses, tips, commissions, and interest made on assets such as a house or other properties.

It's easier to remember what sources are not considered "income". Public assistance like social security and food stamps are considered when assessing child support. Check out our easy-to-use Wisconsin child support calculator for an estimate of your monthly payments. 

How do you calculate a child support payment in Wisconsin?

If the paying parent’s gross income is between $1,350 and $7,000 each month, use the following information:

  • 1 Child: 17% of income
  • 2 Children: 25% of income
  • 3 Children: 29% of income
  • 4 Children: 31% of income
  • 5 or more children: 34% of income

A Conversion Table for specific monthly income with child support rates can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Children and Family website.

There are separate tables and rates for low income and high-income earners. If the paying parent is earning less than $1,350 gross each month, see the Low Income Payer Table. For payers making over $7,000 per month, check out the High Income Payer document.

Of course, there are exceptions to these guidelines since every situation is different. If you have a complex case, schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your options.

Making Co-Parenting Easier: Understanding Wisconsin's Parenting Class Requirement for Divorce

Divorce is never easy, and it will ultimately result in a permanent change of lifestyle for you and your family. Navigating all of these changes can be especially challenging when you have children. Even though you are getting divorced, your children will still have two parents, and you and your ex must learn how to work together as successful co-parents long after the divorce orders are granted. To support you in this difficult transition, Wisconsin requires all divorcing couples with children to take an approved co-parenting class.

What is a parenting class? 

A parenting class is a specialized training program designed specifically for parents who are going through a divorce or legal separation. In compliance with Wisconsin statutes, these classes never exceed 4 hours in length, and they train parents how to deal with issues related to the impact of parental separation on a child's development and changes in family dynamics. These classes provide strategies to reduce the stress of divorce on children. Before your divorce can be granted, you must complete a parenting course, but you are not required to take the same course as your ex.

You must obtain a certificate of completion from an approved parenting course before the final judgment of the divorce or in timely compliance with any existing orders in your case. The court may not require the parties to attend a class as a condition to grant the final judgment or order in the divorce or paternity action, however, the court may refuse to hear a custody or physical placement motion of a party who refuses to attend a class.

Benefits of Enrolling in a Parenting Class

Even if you consider yourself a proficient parent, raising a child with your ex during and after your divorce can present unique challenges for your family. A parenting class can equip you with valuable tools and resources to incorporate into your daily routines with your children as your family goes through this emotional change in circumstances. By participating, you will gain insight into dealing with many post-divorce parenting issues, including parenting disputes. Usually, these classes are conducted by experienced professionals such as therapists or family counselors who are well-versed in handling family dynamics during and after marriage dissolution; however, the classes are not meant to take the place of regular appointments with a licensed therapist.

Approved Parenting Classes: Convenience & Accessibility

Most Wisconsin courts offer an in-person course a few times a month at a low cost through family court services. However, finding an approved parenting class is now more accessible than ever, with many options available online. While these courses usually cost more than the ones offered through the county courts, many can be conveniently completed 100% online, requiring only a computer or tablet with internet connectivity. Once you complete the course requirements, you will be issued a certificate of completion, which you must provide to the court during your divorce hearing. The cost of the course will be your responsibility, but most programs are highly affordable and offer flexible options to accommodate your schedule.

Debunking Common Wisconsin Child Support Myths

Child support is a mechanism to ensure children receive necessary financial support from both parents. Child support can get complicated, and there are several commonly believed misconceptions surrounding the process, terms and how it is carried out. Divergent Family Law wants to shed light on the realities of Wisconsin child support laws.

  • Myth 1: Child Support is a punishment for the non-custodial parent

    Child support is not a punishment for the non-custodial parent. Child support aims to provide financial stability for the child and ensure they have access to basic necessities, education, and healthcare. It is not meant to penalize one parent over the other; rather, it is a legal and financial responsibility shared by both parents to contribute to their child's well-being.

  • Myth 2: Only Fathers pay child support

    In reality, child support laws and obligations are gender-neutral, applying equally to both parents. The determination of child support is based on each parent’s level of income, the child's placement arrangement and the needs of the child. The gender of a parent is not a legal factor in determining child support payments.

  • Myth 3: Child Support is fixed and cannot be modified 

    Wisconsin law acknowledges that circumstances change. Whether it is the financial ability of either parent or a necessary adjustment for how the child is raised, either parent can request a modification of the child support order. Child support is designed to ensure the child’s needs are being adequately met, so child support can be modified when there has been a significant change to relevant factors.

  • Myth 4: Child Support covers only basic necessities 

    Child support is calculated to cover a wide range of expenses including housing, education, medical care, extracurricular activities and even daycare costs. The aim is to avoid significant changes to the child’s standard of living, so child support costs can cover a wide range of expenses.

  • Myth 5: Child Support ends when the child turns 18

    Many believe that child support automatically ends when the child reaches the age of 18. While this might be true in some situations, it's not always the case. If the child is still in high school or has a disability requiring continued support, child support obligations can extend beyond the age of 18, until the child completes their education or becomes self-supporting.

  • Myth 6: The parent with primary physical placement doesn't pay child support

    Some believe a parent can avoid paying child support if the other parent is financially stable. However, child support is based on the rights of the child, not the primary parent. If neither parent has more than 74% of the time with the child, child support is calculated based on both parents' incomes and the child's needs, not the custodial parent's financial situation alone. Likewise, if one parent has the child for 75% or more of the time, Wisconsin courts may not even consider that parent’s income and may order a flat rate child support amount of 17% of the secondary parent’s pre-tax income.

  • Myth 7: Child Support and Visitation Rights are linked

    Failure to pay child support does not grant a parent the right to withhold visitation. However, both parents are expected to adhere to their respective obligations regardless of disputes, and parents may be subject to substantial penalties if they neglect to pay child support.

  • Myth 8: "I have more time with my child, so I don't owe child support"

    Child support calculations take into account a number of factors, including the placement arrangement, but the amount of time spent with the child does not automatically eliminate all financial responsibility. Wisconsin's child support guidelines consider both parents' incomes, the number of children involved and the percentage of time each parent spends with the child. The court's primary concern remains the best interests of the child, and child support serves as a means to ensure the child's financial stability and access to necessary resources, regardless of the custodial arrangement. If the parent who spends the most time with the child earns more money than the parent who spends less time with the child, they may still have a child support obligation.

    It is critical for parents to understand the financial reality of raising a child under Wisconsin’s child support laws at all stages of co-parenting. With appropriate counsel and guidance, parents can avoid falling for common misconceptions and better navigate the system in order to focus on the best interests of their children.

5 Tips to Prepare for a Child Support Hearing

  • Diligently check your mail

    It is supremely important to review your physical mail and emails every day if you are preparing for a child support hearing. You may be sent a variety of documents from the court, your attorney or the opposing attorney, and they almost always contain time-sensitive information. Stay up to date on your mail, and read every document you receive regarding the upcoming hearing.

  • Provide honest and accurate information

    Entering the hearing with accurate information is vital. You may believe the truth is not advantageous for you in the courtroom, but it can go significantly worse if you are not honest with the court. Your job is to provide your lawyer with all the pertinent information and facts and allow them to take it from there. The worst possible outcome would be the judge learning you have not been transparent.

  • Be prepared and on time

    Arriving at the courtroom prepared, early and dressed well is the easiest way to show responsibility. You’ll have the opportunity to go over last-minute notes with your attorney and feel fully prepared.

  • Stay on topic

    The objective of a child support hearing is to determine child support terms and payments. The judge will not be hearing opinions about placement or custody and may become irritated if the proceedings are consistently taken off-topic. The ability to stay on topic and only discuss the relevant information will help put you in a good light in the eyes of the judge.

  • Maintain realistic expectations

    If you believe the opposing party is misrepresenting his or her true earnings, notify the court of your belief and provide evidence in support of your beliefs. You have to maintain realistic expectations, however. The judge will work with all parties and attempt to design a support order to work within both parents’ financial limits and work in the best interests of the children. If your spouse is going through financial hardships, you may not be able to expect a significant amount of child support.

    If you need representation for a child support hearing in Wisconsin, contact Divergent Family Law today.

Parental Kidnapping & the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

Parental kidnapping occurs when one parent takes or withholds a child without the consent of the other parent. It unfortunately often occurs during divorce proceedings or soon after a child custody judgment has been given. Determining whether parental kidnapping has occurred depends on several factors such as if paternity has been established, if there are custody and placement decisions in place and the terms of custody agreements.

Contact the Divergent Family Law divorce attorneys today.
What to talk about with a Wisconsin Attorney

Meeting With a Divorce Lawyer: 3 Things You Need to Discuss

Taking that leap toward starting a divorce can be a daunting and emotional experience. As you prepare to consult with an attorney, make sure you are prepared to discuss important details to your case.  There are three main things that always come up in a consult:

1. Property Division and Assets

In a divorce, there will have to be a division of property owned by each party. At your initial consultation, you should have a rough idea of all the major property, assets, and debts in the marriage. Documentation plays a crucial role in divorce, so getting the documentation together on all of the assets and debts is a key move to organize yourself for your consultation.

2. Child Support, Placement, and Custody

If there are minor children that are a product of your marriage, you are going to have to come up with a child support, placement, and custody plan. In Wisconsin, child support should be expected because both parents are legally obligated to financially support their children. In divorces, placement and support tend to be the most difficult issues to resolve. It is imperative that you work with your attorney, letting them know all of the skeletons in your closet so they can work with you to deliver the best results for you. At the end of the day, each party needs to keep the children’s best interest on the forefront of their mind when discussing this topic.

3. Attorney Fee Structure and Timeline

When finding a Wisconsin family law attorney, you want to ensure that their fees and fee structure are well within your budget. A respectable attorney will be up front and forward with their costs, meaning no hidden fees. Be prepared to discuss fees with an attorney and know realistically what you can afford up front or if you need a payment plan.

An attorney can also go over a timeline as to the divorce. In Wisconsin, there is a minimum 120 day waiting period, but an experienced attorney can discuss with you the realistic timeline for a divorce.

The best thing to do is to have an attorney who understands you unique position and who is willing to fight for you. It is important you are able to trust and confide in your divorce lawyer and that you choose one who is experienced in family law.

What to talk about with a Wisconsin Attorney

Frequently asked questions about child support in Wisconsin:

I believe my former spouse is misusing my child support payments. What can I do?

Child support is intended to go toward your child’s welfare, which includes rent, food, clothes, etc. Of course, there are ways your former spouse will benefit from these payments, but they should mostly be used on behalf of the children. If you are concerned your child is being neglected, you could try to contact the Department of Health and Human Services to see what can be done. Be aware that the state and federal governments do not have jurisdiction or laws governing how these payments are actually spent.

The other parent is refusing to let me see my child, can I stop paying child support?

Seeing your children does not affect your child support obligation. Your obligation first and foremost is to care for your children, so do not stop paying. If your court-ordered child placement schedule is being violated, you can file for contempt for failing to adhere to a court order.

What happens if I do not pay my child support?

If you don’t pay court-ordered child support, you will be actively violating a court order and you may be held in contempt of court. Being held in contempt of court can carry harsh penalties like fines, jail, suspension of your driver’s license or recreational license, or you could be referred to the District Attorney for review for a possible criminal case. Child support is not something to ignore. If there is a change in circumstances and you are unable to pay the required support, file a motion with the court to modify the amount immediately.

What laws govern parental kidnapping?

There are a variety of laws in reference to parental kidnapping at both the federal and state levels. The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act is a federal law establishing standards for which a state can enforce an existing custody and placement order for a child, and when a state can modify a custody determination made by another state. The Act gives custodial preference to a child’s home state in order to make it more difficult for a kidnapping parent to establish new custody and placement orders in a different state. There is also the Wisconsin-specific Interference with Custody law, making it a crime for a person, even a custodial parent, to intentionally take and keep a child away from the other parent in violation of a placement order.

What should I do if I think my ex-spouse may kidnap my child?

Laws in reference to suspicion of kidnapping can be complicated. If you believe that your child has been or will be kidnapped by the other parent, contact an attorney immediately. Depending on the circumstances, you can file for a temporary order to govern child placement or file for an emergency order denying the fleeing parent placement in the short term. These orders are not always simple to get, as they significantly impact the other parent’s time with the child. You will need to provide evidence and documentation of the other parent’s potential to flee with the child.




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