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by Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.

Once the court has made a determination that one party should be awarded primary physical placement of the children, the the court must enter an order as it relates to child support. Child support is money paid directly to the parent with placement, from the parent who does not have placement.

Wisconsin has adopted percentage guidelines, which make the determination of child support in most routine cases, clear cut. Unless the court finds a reason for not applying the percentage guidelines, or unless, the parent who does not have primary physical placement is considered a shared time payor, then the court will order child support as follows:

  • one child --- 17%
  • two children -- 25%
  • three children -- 29%
  • four children -- 31%
  • five children -- 33%

The percentage order is made based upon the gross income of the person paying the support. This means total pay, not take home. Assume a parent has income of $2,000 per month, and take home of $1,500. The child support for one child would be $340 per month, two children $500, three children $580, etc.

Most child support is taken directly out of an employees paycheck, by what is called wage assignment and is removed on the same interval as an employee gets paid. This money is then forwarded on to the clerk of courts.

There are three typical situations where an order will not be the flat percentage above: the serial family situation, the shared time payor and where the court finds a basis to deviate from the guidelines.

The Serial Family. A serial family payor is one who is paying child support to two different parties, not for two different children. While the first family does not automatically get their child support reduced because of the payment to the second family, the second family does. Usually what is done, is the child support for the second family is figured based upon the income the payor has after payment of the first families child support. For example, if both the first and second families have one child, the first family would receive 17% of all the payor's income, but the second would receive 17% of 83% of the payor's income, about 14%. THIS DOESN'T SOUND FAIR, BUT THE THEORY IS THAT THE FIRST FAMILY SHOULD NOT BE DEPRIVED BECAUSE THE PAYOR CHOSE TO HAVE A SECOND FAMILY.

Shared Time Payor. The shared time payor is someone who has more than 110? overnights per year. In such case, the child support is reduced, in an extremely complex way. These rules are too difficult to explain here and it is best that you have your attorney explain them to you.


Deviation from the guidelines. In order to deviate from the percentage standards, the court must make an express and properly explained finding that such is unfair to either party or the children. The factors the court can consider are:

(1m) Upon request by a party, the court may modify the amount of child support payments determined under sub. (1j) if, after considering the following factors, the court finds by the greater weight of the credible evidence that use of the percentage standard is unfair to the child or to any of the parties: (a) The financial resources of the child. (b) The financial resources of both parents as determined under s. 767.255. (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) 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 full­time parent. (e) The cost of day 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. 767.24. (f) The physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child, including any costs for health insurance as provided for under sub. (4m). (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.

While these factors might indicate that deviation occurs more often to increase child support, in practice, it is most often used by the payor to reduce the obligation. One common situation where the strict percentage is not followed is where the payor has a high income (something above $60,000 is used by many judges) and the payment of a strict percentage results in substantially more than the judge feels is appropriate to care for a child.

Click Here for Child Support Statute: CHAPTER 767.25 WISCONSIN STATUTES

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