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Kevin O'Flaherty

In Wisconsin, the obligation for child support typically ends when a child reaches the age of 18, marking an end to a parent’s legal requirement to offer financial assistance. Certain conditions may necessitate prolonging this obligation beyond what is standard, highlighting the importance of familiarity with regulations regarding Wisconsin’s child support.

Key Takeaways

  • Child support in Wisconsin generally ends when a child turns 18, unless they're still in high school or pursuing a GED. It can extend for college support agreements or by court decision.
  • Significant changes in a parent's income must be reported to the court for child support adjustments, or face legal consequences such as imputed income and enforcement actions.
  • Child support arrears must be paid even after the child turns 18, with enforcement for up to 20 years after the order ends.

Do I Still Have to Pay Child Support After My Child Turns 18 In Wisconsin?

So, child support in Wisconsin only runs until the child turns 18, with a few exceptions. You still have to pay child support if your child is over 18 and still in high school or a GED program. If you and your ex made any arrangements that you would assist with upkeep during the child’s college attendance, you would also still be on the hook. While the standard is 18 years of age, you can see that the state will require you to pay until the child is out of high school or if you agree otherwise with your ex.  

Don’t take any chances to ensure that your child support obligation ends right when the child emancipates. Schedule a time to meet with your attorney and see that all necessary paperwork is filed with the court to ensure that the state knows that a child has turned 18. Furthermore, you or your attorney should reach out to the child support attorney to make certain that they know when the obligation is ending so that they do not come back later and try to claim that you owe arrears.  

Do I Have to Pay Child Support If My Child Goes to College?

As you can see from above, if you agree to pay some support if your child goes to college, you will be expected to honor that agreement. There is no law in Wisconsin requiring one parent to contribute to college costs. Still, many parents understand that it is essential to arrange financial support while their child receives additional education. Nothing is stopping the parents from privately negotiating and putting in writing a plan to provide financial support after the child turns 18 if the child is attending school past grade 12. If you do want to reach that sort of agreement with the other parent, that agreement should be in writing and created with the assistance of an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney who can make sure that the agreement is valid, enforceable, and fair to both sides.  

What Is the Maximum Child Support in Wisconsin?

The amount of child support in Wisconsin, as well as in many other states, is based on a statutory calculation. There is no set “amount”; instead, is a percentage of your gross income that increases for each child. If you have one child who needs support, your child support will be set at 17% of your gross income for one child, 25% for two children, and so on.  

People often ask why the calculation is done with their gross income. Gross income is the more accurate reflection of what you make in a month because it has not been reduced with the addition of exemptions and deductions. People could try to manipulate how much child support they pay by enrolling in programs they don’t really need so that an amount is deducted from their paycheck before the percentage is applied.  

The court will ask if you are already paying child support for other children when it makes its final calculation and also considers things like health insurance costs. The court will also consider how much time you spend with the child paying their daily expenses.  

Lawyer explaining Wisconsin Child support to parents and child

Adjusting Child Support Payments: Income Changes and Modification Requests

Unforeseen life events, like losing a job or experiencing either a decrease or significant boost in income, can alter one’s ability to make child support payments. In acknowledgment of these shifts, Wisconsin law permits the modification of child support obligations if there’s a considerable change in circumstances. To initiate this process, the affected parent must file for an alteration with the court, which will evaluate the new situation before approving any changes.

Should both parents reach an agreement on revising their arrangement, they have access to electronic forms via the Office of State Court to submit their agreed-upon changes. Nevertheless, it is critical to note that such agreements need judicial approval before they become legally binding.

Under Wisconsin guidelines pertaining to child support orders, a parent is entitled to seek reassessment every three years or when modifications would result in either medical support becoming unavailable or at least $50 monthly increase. For all parents involved in navigating such matters within Wisconsin’s borders—and especially so for maintaining children’s welfare—it remains essential for them fully grasp how state laws apply and govern those required child upkeep payments.

Child Support Modification

If you lose your job or take a pay cut, it is your responsibility to inform the court so child support can be modified. If you don’t tell the court what is going on and you don’t get the modification, you will spend a lot of time and money trying to fix the issue later. It also works the other way, and if you get a new job that pays more or raises, you must inform the court so that child support may be adjusted. Failure to inform the court of an increase in income will not work out for you in the long run, someone will notice, and then you will be hit with back child support from the date of the income increase.  To learn more about child support modification check out our article, How to Modify Child Support in Wisconsin.

Child Support Arrears  

You usually stop paying child support once your child turns 18, but you are still responsible for any arrears. Arrears are back child support that was either not paid or underpaid. It may also accumulate if you did not report an increase in income to the court, as you are required to do by law. If you owe arrears, the state will continue to require a monthly amount until all the arrears are paid off. You should be aware that substantial arrears can cause other legal problems for you, such as your driver’s license not being renewed and the potential interception of any tax return. For more general information on Wisconsin child support read our article, Recent Changes to Wisconsin Child Support Law.  

Another thing to consider is that your ex has a 20-year time frame to sue you in Wisconsin for back child support. That is 20 years from the date your youngest child together emancipates, not the date of any custody or divorce decree.  

If you have questions or concerns about your Wisconsin child support, you should consult an experienced Wisconsin child support attorney who can explain the law and see that your rights are protected in court. Feel free to give O’Flaherty Law a call, and we would be happy to help you.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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