In Wisconsin, child support is calculated based upon the number of minor children, the parents’ income and the parents’ physical placement time with the children.  All support calculations are based upon the “Percentage of Income Standard,” found in the Wisconsin Administrative Code at DCF Chapter 150

The most basic child support calculation is based solely on the percentage standard.  Under this method, the amount of child support paid is based upon a certain percentage of the paying parent’s gross income.  The percentage of monthly income assumed to be available for child support is as follows:

  • 17% for one child;
  • 25% for two children;
  • 29% for three children;
  • 31% for four children;
  • 34% for five or more children.

More complex calculations come into play in certain circumstances.  The most common of these is probably the “shared placement” calculation.  This is a modified formula which applies when both parents have court ordered periods of placement of at least 25% (or 92 days per year).  Under the shared placement formula, both parents’ incomes are taken into account, in relation to overnight placement, to arrive at a net child support amount.  In addition to the child support payment, parents are typically ordered to pay for a percentage of “variable costs” incurred on behalf of the children – child care, tuition, extra-curricular activities, and the like.  A shared placement child support calculator published by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families is available online

Another situation which calls for a modification of the percentage standard is that of a “serial family payer.”  A serial family payer is one who has a prior legal obligation for child support.  For example, a parent who is divorcing but has a child from a previous marriage may qualify for serial family payer status in calculating support for the children from the second marriage. 

Infrequently, parents decide to split up their children after a divorce with one or more children residing with each parent.  To address these situations, there is a special provision in the child support formulas for calculating support for these “split-placement parents.”  As in shared placement cases, both parents’ incomes are considered relative to the number of children and the placement.

If a parent is considered to be “high” or “low” income, modifications to the formulas are made as well. 

If none of the above “special” circumstances apply, and a parent feels more or less child support is appropriate for the situation, that parent may request what is known as a “deviation” from the formula.  A deviation may provide more or less support than the application of the formula would indicate.  The factors that the Court may consider in deviation include (but are not limited to):

  • the financial resources of the child;
  • the financial resources of both parents;
  • maintenance payments received by either party;
  • the needs of any person whom either party is legally obligated to support;
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage stayed intact;
  • the cost of child care;
  • special health needs of the child.

Deviations are rare, but may be appropriate in certain situations.  It is up to the Judge to decide whether to grant the deviation, based upon the evidence presented.

For more information about how child support may be calculated in your case, please contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney.

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