One of the most contested issues in any paternity case, separation, or divorce is child support. In order to determine what support payments should be made, if any, the court must first determine physical placement of the child. Placement refers to where the child will be residing.
If a parent has less than 25% of placement, or less than 92 overnights per year, he will be ordered to pay support according to the guidelines set by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. The department has set these guidelines as percentages of the payor’s monthly income as follows; 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for 3 children, 31% for four children, and 34% for five or more children.
If a parent has more than 25% of placement, the court will implement a shared placement formula, for which the incomes of parents will be taken into account, along with the percentage of placement each parent has.
A parent’s income can be determined in various ways. Most commonly, the court will determine a support payment based off of the parent’s gross monthly income. If a parent is self-employed, the court will determine support based off of income modified for business expenses. For parents who are unemployed or are earning under their usual salary, the court may determine support based off of his/her earning capacity.
Numerous factors can result in a deviation from the typical child support standards. If either parent provides private health insurance for the child, the cost of that insurance could be incorporated as an upward or downward deviation from support. If the payor has a prior child support obligation, the court must take this into account when determining support for the younger child.
If a shared placement order is in effect, the court is likely to order that the parents must exchange income information each year. Examples of which may include tax returns, W2s, etc. The payor is also obligated to inform both the child support agency and the other parent if there is a change in his/her income. If the payor fails to inform either the child support agency or the other parent about the change, and there has been an increase in pay, the parent receiving support is entitled to request an increase in payments retroactive to the date the income change took effect. If the parent receiving support hired an attorney for this issue, he/she can receive attorney fees from the other parent.
Both parents should be mindful that although the payor has informed the child support agency about a change in income, this in no way means that the child support agency will make any changes to the current support order. For example, if the payor receives a promotion or a job that results in a higher income, support will not automatically be raised. The parent receiving payment must file a motion to modify the current support order. At that point the court will consider the changes in both parents’ incomes and adjust the support order. Only after receiving a signed order from the judge, will the child support agency modify the amount the payor owes. Likewise, if the payor receives a job decrease or loses his/her job, it will up to the payor to file a motion with the court to modify the support order. The same process applies even after the child reaches the age of 18. Support obligations do not automatically stop and the payor will have to file a motion with the court in order to put an end to the obligation due to the child reaching the age of majority.
Support calculations and income determination can get complicated. It would be best to seek the advice of an attorney for help determining support and filing a motion for modification. Our office has extensive experience in support issues and offers free phone consultations if you wish to discuss your particular case in detail.