Wisconsin Child Support Laws and Guidelines

The laws governing child support in Wisconsin are different from that of other states. WI child support law sets how much the child maintenance should be, and the duration of such payments, plus it seeks to guide parents in exceptional cases such as deviation, support for disabled children, and retroactive support.

As you may already know, child support (or child maintenance) is a continuous monetary payment made by a spouse to another spouse, guardian, caregiver,  or the state for the upkeep of children after a divorce or separation.

The person who is required to pay child support is referred to as the “obligor,” whereas the person who is eligible to receive child maintenance is referred to as the “obligee.”

What are WI Child Support Laws?

In Wisconsin, the obligee is typically always the person who has primary custody of the child, which means the person who lives with the child, pays the majority of the living expenses, and has primary custody of the child.

The obligor is typically always the spouse who doesn’t have primary custody of the children and may or may not have custody or access to them.

What does Child Support Cover in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, child support is intended to cover the basic needs of the child, including:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • Health care
  • Educational expenses

Child support can also be used to cover additional expenses such as child care, extracurricular activities, and transportation costs.

Child Support When One Parent Lives Outside Wisconsin

To enforce child support orders beyond state boundaries, each state has to have the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) in place. Wisconsin is no exception.

The UIFSA ensures that child support processes and procedures are consistent across states. When one spouse lives in another state where the Wisconsin courts do not have the authority to adjudicate or enforce orders, UIFSA reduces these bottlenecks.

As a result of the UIFSA, a WI child support attorney can take legal action against a spouse who now lives in another state to enforce a child support order.

How is Child Maintenance Calculated In Wisconsin?

How Child Maintenance Calculated In Wisconsin

Learn How Child Maintenance Calculated In Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, child support is calculated using a set of guidelines established by the state. The guidelines are based on the income of both parents and the number of children involved.

The formula used to calculate child support in Wisconsin is as follows:

  1. Determine the combined net income of both parents. This is done by adding up the gross income of each parent and then subtracting certain deductions, such as taxes and mandatory union dues.
  2. Using the combined net income, refer to the Child Support Percentage Schedule to find the appropriate percentage of net income that should be allocated for child support.
  3. The percentage is applied to the combined net income of both parents, and the resulting amount is the basic child support obligation.
  4. Any additional expenses, such as child care or extracurricular activities, are added to the basic child support obligation.
  5. The court may also consider other factors such as the needs and best interests of the child and the standard of living of the child.

Wisconsin Child Support Calculator or Worksheet

While a child support calculator can be used to estimate child support, it is not a guarantee of the final amount of child maintenance that the judge will order. A child support worksheet is a form used by the WI courts (or negotiating spouses) to approximate the basic child support obligation of the parents.

Regardless of which approach you use, spouses can decide on a child support sum and amend the worksheet accordingly to ensure it accurately reflects their agreement. Both establish a presumption duty to pay child support.

The final decision on the amount of child support is made by the administrative law judge, administrator, or court.

How Wisconsin Guidelines are Applied

The WI court will use child support guidelines, which are law-based and are sometimes known simply as “Guidelines.  Guidelines establish a fundamental minimum amount of child maintenance, from which the court can differ after considering a variety of considerations.

The criteria are believed to be rational, and a decision of support that conforms to the guidelines is believed to be in the best interest of the child,” according to the guidelines.

The Wisconsin Guidelines are based on Net Monthly Income. The court also will employ one of two methods after determining Net Monthly Income:

1. The first method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is less than $7,500.00. The judge will consider the number of children in the household who are the subject of the petition in this case (note that a different calculation applies if an obligor has children in two different households).

2. The second method applies if an obligor’s net monthly income is more than $7,500.00.

Gross Income Included in Calculating Child Maintenance

For child support calculation purposes, gross income includes:

  • all wages and salary, including commissions, military pay, tips, overtime, and bonuses
  • self-employment income
  • interest and dividends
  • net rental income from property the parent owns

Even jobless parents are likely to have some sources of income, like:

  • severance pay
  • unemployment benefits
  • retirement benefits
  • veterans’ benefits
  • disability benefits, or
  • workers’ compensation awards.

A WI family court judge may also allocate an income value to parents who do not currently have income-earning employment (like a second house). If a jobless parent inherits assets that can be sold, for instance, the judge may include the property’s market value as a part of such parent’s income.

Where parents willfully go unemployed or underemployed in order to avoid paying child support, judges may infer (assign) income based on what they are supposed to be earning.

Net Income for WI Guidelines

How to determine Net Income for WI child support

How to determine Net Income for WI child support

Remove the following costs from the total gross income to get the parent’s net income for paying child support in Wisconsin:

  • Social Security taxes, or any mandated retirement plan contributions if the parent does not pay those taxes.
  • Income taxes, both federal and state (based on the tax rate for a single person claiming one exemption)
  • union dues
  • The WI court has ruled the parent to pay the child’s health and dental insurance premiums, as well as additional medical bills.

Parents who have already paid child support for another kid or children (from a previous relationship) may be eligible for a refund.

Is Medical Health Insurance Part of Child Support in Wisconsin?

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Wisconsin

Medical Health Insurance and Child Support in Wisconsin

Yes, in addition to the amount of support determined by the guidelines in Wisconsin, the parents will be responsible for the child’s health and dental insurance.

Whereas the noncustodial parent is presumed to provide coverage, this can readily be transferred to the other parent if it makes good sense.

For instance, suppose the custodial parent’s employer offers healthcare insurance for the dependent but the noncustodial parent does not.

Factors Wisconsin Courts Consider Before Ordering Maintenance

The following factors must be considered by the court when determining whether Wisconsin Family Code applies:

  • The age of the child and needs; the parents’ ability to assist
  • Financial resources available to the child
  • For a set period of time, you have custody and access to a child.
  • An increase or decrease in the obligee’s earnings or income due to the obligee’s property and assets
  • Childcare expenses incurred by either parent in order to keep a job
  • any other children under the care of either party
  • Any other children under the care of either party
  • What kind of alimony or spousal maintenance is being paid or received;
  • Obligor or obligee receives an automobile, house, or other benefits from his or her employer or business entity.
  • The parties or the child’s special education, health care, or other expenses
  • The cost of traveling to obtain custody of and access to a child.
  • Cash flow from any estate and assets, including real estate, personal property, and business property, can be positive or negative.

How to Challenge or Modify Child Support Order

In Wisconsin, a parent can challenge or modify a child support order in the following ways:

  1. File a Motion to Modify Child Support with the court: A parent can file a motion to modify child support with the court if there has been a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income or the needs of the child. The court will review the motion and make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
  2. Use the Wisconsin Child Support Online Calculator: The Wisconsin Child Support Online Calculator is a tool that can be used to calculate the amount of child support that should be paid based on the current income and expenses of both parents. If the calculated amount is different from the current child support order, a parent can use this as evidence in a motion to modify child support.
  3. Request a Review: A parent can request a review of the child support order if there has been a change in income or expenses. The Child Support agency will review the case and make adjustments to the child support order as needed.
  4. Mediation: A parent can request mediation to resolve disputes over child support. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party helps both parents come to an agreement on child support.
  5. Consult with a attorney: A parent may wish to consult with a attorney who specializes in family law. The attorney can advise the parent on the best course of action for challenging or modifying the child support order.

Steps to Collect Child Support in Wisconsin

Steps to Collect Child Support in Wisconsin

Steps to Collect Child Support in Wisconsin

Getting a child support order in place is only half the struggle in Wisconsin. You’ll also have to collect the money itself. A noncustodial parent is responsible for paying the full amount of child maintenance per month as imposed by the court. Here are the steps for getting child support in WI

1. Open a Child Support Case

Complete a child support application with your local child support agency/office

2. Locate the Other Parent

To begin the child maintenance procedure in WI, the child support services (CSS) office will use the information provided by the applying parent, as well as information gathered from other sources, to try to locate the other parent.

3. Establish Parentage

It’s critical to establish a legitimate relationship with the child when the other parent has been located. The state will assist you in locating the sufficient means. Parents can choose to acknowledge their parentage voluntarily or organize a genetic screening.

4. Establish a Child Support Order

A Wisconsin child support order specifies how much the other parent should pay and includes details such as the payment schedule and provisions for the child’s health insurance.

5. Set Up Payment

Deducting child maintenance from a parent’s paycheck and transferring the money to the other parent or guardian is the most typical method of payment. It’s a simple way to make and track child support payments.

6. Enforce the Support Order

Your WI child support services will enforce the child support order if the noncustodial parent does not pay the full amount or does not pay any. Exposing overdue child support payments to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, and Withholding child maintenance from unemployment or worker’s compensation benefits are examples of other enforcement measures.

7. Review the Order

Three years after the order is issued, either parent can request their local child support office to revise it. They can ask for a reassessment sooner than three years if a parent’s situation has changed significantly, such as loss of employment or imprisonment.

Wisconsin Child Support Services Office, Number and Login Portal

Office – Department of Children and Families
201 E. Washington Ave
PO Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
Phone Number – +1 608-422-7000
Online Login Portal – https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/childcare/parent-portal/info

Retroactive Child Support and Arrears

In Wisconsin, there can be several consequences for not paying child support orders. Some of these include:

  • Financial penalties: The court can impose fines and penalties for not paying child support.
  • Interest on unpaid support: The court can also order the non-custodial parent to pay interest on any unpaid child support.
  • Withholding of income: The court can order the non-custodial parent’s employer to withhold a portion of their income to pay for child support.
  • License suspension: The court can suspend the non-custodial parent’s driver’s license, professional license, or hunting and fishing license if they are behind on child support payments.
  • Contempt of court: The court can hold the non-custodial parent in contempt of court if they refuse to pay child support as ordered by the court.
  • Property liens: The court can place a lien on the non-custodial parent’s property if they owe unpaid child support.
  • Criminal charges: In some cases, non-payment of child support can result in criminal charges.

Here are a few steps on how to enforce retroactive child support payments in Wisconsin:

  1. Contact the Wisconsin Child Support Enforcement agency. They can provide information on how to file a request for retroactive support, and assist with the process of collecting any past-due payments.
  2. Gather any relevant documentation, such as proof of income and expenses, to support your request for retroactive support.
  3. File a request for retroactive support with the court. This can typically be done through the county child support agency or through an attorney.
  4. Attend any court hearings or meetings related to your request for retroactive support.
  5. If the court grants your request, work with the child support agency or your attorney to ensure that the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay the retroactive support.
  6. If the non-custodial parent fails to pay the retroactive support, the custodial parent can seek enforcement of the court order through wage garnishment, property liens, or other legal means.

If you feel the arrears are being demanded wrongly, you can learn how to get child support arrears dismissed HERE.

How to Pay Child Maintenance in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, parents can pay child maintenance in a variety of ways, as long as their order doesn’t state otherwise:

  • by debit or credit card,
  • mail,
  • check
  • bank transfer
  • direct deposit
  • income withholding, or
  • auto-draft from a bank account.

How to Check your Child Support Payment History in WI

Child Support Payment History in WI

How to Check Child Support Payment History in WI

In order to check your child support payment history in Wisconsin, the custodial parent can do the following:

  • Contact the Wisconsin Child Support Agency by phone or in-person to request a payment history.
  • Log into the Wisconsin Child Support eServices portal, if you have an account, and view your payment history online.
  • Request a payment history through the Wisconsin Child Support Agency by mail.
  • If you have an open case with the Child Support Agency, you may also be able to check your payment history through your case worker or attorney.

It’s advisable to check out the child support payment records which are extremely beneficial.

When Does Child Support End in Wisconsin?

The Wisconsin court “may order that one or both parents support a child until:

  • the child is 18 years or finishes high school (whichever comes last),
  • the child emancipates by getting married,
  • the child’s disabilities are removed, or
  • the child dies.

Nevertheless, if the judge determines that the child is disabled (physically or mentally), the child can receive support perpetually.

Custody Rights of a Child in Wisconsin

Understanding Custody Rights of a Child in Wisconsin

How Does WI Child Support Work if one Parent Has no Job?

In Wisconsin, child support is calculated based on the income of both parents. If one parent is unemployed or has no income, that parent’s child support obligation will be based on their potential income rather than their actual income. Potential income can be determined by looking at factors such as education, work history, and the availability of jobs in the area.

The parent with no job may be required to actively seek employment and provide proof of job search efforts to the court. Additionally, the court may consider whether the parent’s unemployment is voluntary or involuntary when determining child support.

Is Child Support Tax Deductible in Wisconsin?

NO. In Wisconsin, child support payments are neither taxable to the recipient nor tax-deductible by the payer as stated by the IRS. Don’t include child support payments when calculating your gross income to see whether you have to file a tax return.

However, either parent may be eligible for a dependency exemption per child. If the parents can’t agree on who receives the exemption, the judge will set out the terms in a court order.

Getting a Skilled Wisconsin Child Support Attorney

If you are involved in a family law matter in Wisconsin, you may have a lot more questions than answers at this moment. You are not alone; Correspondence with members has shown that using the services of specialized child support attorneys saves a lot of hassles and most importantly, ensures you come out as a winner for you and your kid.

If you need to fight your child maintenance cause in WI with confidence, then you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

Luckily, we have compiled a database of these expert child support lawyers and made them available for the convenience of our members. You can reach them at the click of a button for legal advice and representation on child maintenance.

Click Here to Get our Free Wisconsin Alimony recommendation.

Wisconsin Resource

- Wisconsin Child Adoption Guidelines
- Wisconsin Childcare Guidelines
- Wisconsin Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- Wisconsin Child Support Guidelines
- Wisconsin Divorce Guidelines
- Wisconsin Marital Property Guidelines
- Wisconsin Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check Wisconsin Child Support Payment History
- Wisconsin Child Support Calculator
- Wisconsin Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers


Child Support Laws in all 50 States

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T-U - Tennessee |  Texas |  Utah
V-W - Vermont |  VirginiaWashington DC | Washington StateWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming



Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.