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In this article, we explain some basics you should know calculating child support in Wisconsin, including: How to Calculate Child Support for Your Case/Worksheets , Methods other than Percent Income to Calculate Support, Other Factors the Court may Consider to Deviate from the Percentage Standard, Does my Spouse’s Income Count for Child Support?

Key Takeaways

Child support in Wisconsin is generally based on percentage of income and proportion of overnights each parent has with the child. While the court may consider other factors to deviate from support guidelines, it is not hard to get an estimate of what your child support obligation will be. It's also essential to stay updated with recent updates to Wisconsin's child support laws to ensure you're adhering to the latest regulations.

In this article, we explain some basics you should know calculating child support in Wisconsin, including:

  • How to Calculate Child Support for Your Case/Worksheets
  • Methods other than Percent Income to Calculate Support
  • Other Factors the Court may Consider to Deviate from the Percentage Standard
  • Does my Spouse’s Income Count for Child Support?

How to Calculate Child Support for your Case/Worksheets

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) is an excellent resource for child support questions and can be found here.

Sole Custody:

This calculation may be appropriate when one parent has less than 25% placement (less than 92 overnights per year). Monthly support is calculated as a percent of gross income.

  • 17% of gross income for 1 child
  • 25% of gross income for 2 children
  • 29% of gross income for 3 children
  • 31% of gross income for 4 children
  • 34% of gross income for 5 or more children

So, if the non-custodial parent has a gross income of $3,000 a month, their estimated child support obligation would be $510/month for one child (3000 x .17 = 510), $750 for two children (3000 x .25 = 750), $870 for three children (3000 x .29 = 870), etc. You can estimate child support by multiplying the monthly income by percent gross for the number of children requiring support.    

Shared-Placement:

This calculation may be appropriate where the parents share placement of their children at least 25% of the time (92 overnights per year or more), and each parent is ordered to assume the basic child support costs in proportion to the time that the parent has placement for the child (each parent pays for things while they have the child).  

Monthly child support for Shared-Placement is the same percent of gross income per child as in sole custody but reduced in proportion to the overnights each parent has and the other parent’s child support obligation. While both parents are responsible for child support, generally, the parent that makes more money, and/or has less parenting time will be responsible for providing support to the other parent.  

Wisconsin Statute DCF 150 includes the following worksheet to estimate child support in Shared-Placement situations. Shared-Placement Worksheet.

Here is an example using the shared-placement model with one child and 60/40 placement. Feel free to use the worksheet linked above to calculate child support for your situation.  

High-Income Payer:

If the paying parent’s income is $7,000/month ($84,000/year) or greater, the court may use the high-income payer formula. For the high-income payer formula, a lower percentage of income goes to child support for income after the first $7,000. An even lower percentage of income goes to child support on income in excess of the first $12,500/month. See the attached worksheet from DCF 150 to do your own calculations. High-Income Payer Worksheet.  

For example, using the high-income payer formula would reduce a parent’s child support obligation for one child, if that parent’s income is $10,000/month, from $1,700/month (17%) to $1,610/month, reducing the child support obligation by $90/month.  

Serial-Family Parent:

If a parent has a child support obligation to one child or set of children from a previous relationship, and then has more children and becomes responsible for a new child support obligation, gross income available for the second set of children will be reduced by the amount of the child support obligation to the first set of children. See the attached worksheet from DCF 150 to do your own calculations. Serial-Family Parent Worksheet.

For example. If parent B has a gross income of $3,000 and a child support obligation of $510, and then he becomes responsible for another child support obligation, his gross income for the second obligation will be $2,490 ($3,000 - $510).    

Split-Placement Parent:

A split placement formula may be appropriate where the court order gives one parent the placement of one or more children and gives the other parent placement of the other children. Using the split placement formula gives credit to each parent for the children that they are responsible for.  

See the attached worksheet from DCF 150 to do your own calculations. Split-Placement Worksheet.

Combined Split-Placement & Shared-Placement:

If your situation involves both serial-family and split-placement, the Combined Split-Placement & Shared-Placement formula may be the appropriate in calculating your child support obligation. See the attached worksheet from DCF 150 to do your own calculations. Combined Split-Placement & Shared-Placement Worksheet.

Methods other than Percent of Actual Income to Calculate Support

While using percent income to determine child support obligations is common, in some situations it may not be possible, and more appropriate methods are possible.  

Ability to Earn:

Under DCF 150.03(3) (Determining Income Imputed Based on Earning Capacity), If a parent’s actual income is less than they could be making, or is unknown, the court may estimate what that parent should be able to make and use that income estimate to determine child support obligation. The court may also “impute” minimum wage to the parent and calculate child support based on the amount of income the parent would be making if they were working 35 hours a week for minimum wage. A court can also order the non-custodial parent to search for a job or participate in job training.  

“In situations where the income of a parent is less than the parent's earning capacity or is unknown, and in the absence of credible evidence to the contrary, the court may impute income to the parent at an amount that represents the parent's ability to earn, based on the parent's education, training and recent work experience, earnings during previous periods, current physical and mental health, history of child care responsibilities as the parent with primary physical placement, and the availability of work in or near the parent's community.” DCF 150.03(3).

Income from Assets:

Under DCF 150.03(4) (Determining Income Imputed from Assets), The court may impute a reasonable earning potential to a parent’s assets if the court finds that 1) the parent has assets which are not included as part of gross income and 2) the parent has diverted income into assets to avoid child support, or the income from those assets is necessary to maintain the children’s standard of living when they were living with both parents. Assets could be things like Life insurance, Cash and deposit accounts, Stocks and Bonds, or Business interests.  

So, if gross income is insufficient to determine an appropriate child support obligation, the assets of the paying parent may be used to increase the parent’s income for the purpose of calculating child support.  

Other Factors the Court may Consider to Deviate from the Percentage Standard

A court may order a deviation from the child support guidelines and require a parent to pay more or less than the estimate created by the percentage of Income standard. The court may deviate from guideline support when it would be unfair to the parent’s or children, and the court must note why they are deviating from guideline support.  Under Wis Stat 767.511(1m), the court may consider the following factors to determine if deviation is appropriate:

(a)  The financial resources of the child.

(b) The financial resources of both parents.

(bj) Maintenance received by either party.

(bp) The needs of each party in order to support himself or herself at a level equal to or greater than that established under 42 USC 9902 (2).

(bz) The needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is legally obligated to support.

(c) If the parties were married, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended in annulment, divorce or legal separation.

(d) The desirability that the custodian remain in the home as a full-time parent.

(e) The cost of child care if the custodian works outside the home, or the value of custodial services performed by the custodian if the custodian remains in the home.

(ej) The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents.

(em) Extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement under s. 767.41.

(f) The physical, mental, and emotional health needs of the child, including any costs for health insurance as provided for under s. 767.513.

(g) The child's educational needs.

(h) The tax consequences to each party.

(hm) The best interests of the child.

(hs) The earning capacity of each parent, based on each parent's education, training and work experience and the availability of work in or near the parent's community.

(i) Any other factors which the court in each case determines are relevant.

Does my Spouse’s Income Count for Child Support?

Yes, it does. To the parent responsible to pay child support, it can seem unfair that they are paying child support, and the other parent does not have to. However, the way child support calculations are done, both parents have a child support obligation, and the paying parent is only paying for their part of the obligation. It is assumed that the other parent (normally the custodial parent) is meeting their support obligation by paying for and caring for the child on a daily basis, and the paying parent’s obligation is only to cover the difference between the two parent’s obligations.  

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