Wisconsin child support is intended for the child’s benefit, though it is paid to a parent. Therefore, Wisconsin law does not allow parents to waive support on the child’s behalf. Even if the parents agree, a permanent waiver is not permitted. The State of Wisconsin and the judge want to ensure that both parents have a fair ability to support the child, and that one parent will not seek public assistance due to lack of support.
Financial circumstances change. Two parents who earn similar incomes at one point may experience important life and financial changes over time. Job loss, medical problems, or a large increase in expenses could leave one parent with a decreased ability to support the child. If that parent had permanently waived child support, the child would suffer during his time with that parent. Wisconsin child support law always leaves open the option for a parent to request support to ensure the child’s well-being.
It is not just the parent’s needs that change. A child’s unforeseen health issues, special needs, or just the normal increase in costs as children age often require rebalancing of child support. If a parent waived support before these issues occurred, the child would likely be left without the necessary care. It is easy to see how a child could be harmed by a previous waiver of Wisconsin child support.
Finally, judges are concerned that parents may waive child support out of lack of knowledge, coercion, or fear. I have worked with many clients who either did not know their children were entitled to support, or had been threatened by the other parent if they requested it. Quite obviously, it is not in a child’s best interest to terminate support forever in these circumstances. With proper help and encouragement, most parents understand that their children benefit greatly from child support payments.
Parents cannot agree to waive support, but they can agree to a temporary halt. If both parents can support the child on their respective incomes, or if they agree on other means of payment, the judge will often accept such a temporary agreement. There are several ways to defer, structure, or put support on hold to reach a fair agreement. Such agreements must be very carefully drafted, however, to comply with Wisconsin child support law and receive a judge’s approval. I have drafted several such agreements, and I am always willing to work with clients on an individualized solution. Contact me to discuss this or any other Wisconsin child support question.