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Wisconsin child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Wisconsin child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Wisconsin child support determined?

In Wisconsin, either parent may be ordered to pay child support, health care expenses and health insurance coverage for the child. The courts consider the best interests of the child and the following factors:

  • the financial resources of the child
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had continued
  • the physical, mental and emotional and educational needs of the child
  • the parent’s financial resources, income, earning power, needs and obligations
  • the age and health of the child
  • the best interest of the child
  • maintenance received by either party
  • the desirability of the parent with custody to remain in the home as a full time parent
  • the cost of day care if the parent with custody works outside the home, or the value of the child care provided by the parent
  • tax consequences
  • any joint custody arrangements
  • any extraordinary travel expenses incurred by exercising a the right of physical placement
  • the needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is obliged to support
  • any other relevant factors

The courts may order a parent to seek employment. Also, they courts may order alimony and child support payments to be combined into one "family support" payment.

There are official Wisconsin Child Support guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to help determine the correct amount of child support. The guidelines will be followed, unless the parents have agreed to a child support amount approved by the courts, or the courts determine the guidelines are unjust for a particular case.

The state guidelines are generally based on a percentage of the net income of the parent ordered to pay child support, as follows:

  • one child 17%
  • two children 25%
  • three children 29%

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Wisconsin's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about parenting and custody. If there is no agreement, then the courts will make these decisions.

In Wisconsin, joint or sole custody may be awarded. The courts use the terms "legal custody and physical placement." These decisions will be made based on the best interests of the child and the following factors:

  • the preference of the child
  • the parents’ wishes
  • the child’s adjustment to home, school, religion and community settings
  • the mental and physical health of all involved
  • the relationship the child has with each significant family member
  • any findings or recommendations by a neutral mediator
  • whether child care is available or not
  • any history of domestic abuse
  • any history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • whether one parent is likely to interfere in an unreasonable manner with the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • the the reports of appropriate professionals if used when legal custody or physical placement is contested
  • any other relevant factors

The sex and race of each parent is not considered in custody decisions.

Wisconsin's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. If it is not, then the courts may require either parent to provide health insurance coverage for the child.

Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Wisconsin child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Most states, including Wisconsin, have a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. The payments are withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan in much of the nation.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Often one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How Wisconsin determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. When the courts have not awarded the parents with the equal-time alternating residential care provision, and the parents cannot agree to exactly when visitation will occur, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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