How is Child Support Calculated in Wisconsin?

Below are the answers to the most common questions about how child support is determined and calculated in Wisconsin.

How much child support will I have to pay?

The amount of child support ordered by the court will depend on the amount of placement that you have with your child(ren).  If you have less than 25% placement with your child(ren) (based on number of overnights over the course of a year)  then your child support will be based on the following percentages of your gross income:

17% for one child

25% for 2 children

29% for 3 children

31% for 4 children

34% for 5 or more children.

If you have more than 25% placement with your child(ren) (based on number of overnights over the course of a year) then the court will order support based on both parents’ incomes and the amount of placement that each parent has with the child(ren).  While this formula reduces the amount of actual child support paid, it obligates both parties to share variable expenses proportionate to their percent of placement.

The exact formula used to calculate child support for a shared placement schedule is complicated and can be found at

or you can use the following spreadsheet/calculator:

Will the court order child support on my overtime and or second job?

Child support is based upon your gross income from all sources.  This would include part time jobs, overtime and bonuses.

Are there any exceptions to the percentages listed above?

Yes.  If you make $84,000 per year or more, there is a separate “high income payor” formula used by the court.   The first link above will take you to the calculator for that formula or the above spreadsheet also takes into account that formula when calculating child support for shared placement.

If you have more than one child support order, you are considered a “serial payor” and are entitled to credit for any prior orders.

Additionally the court may deviate upward or downward from the percentage guidelines based on a number of factors such as contribution toward health cost premiums, travel expenses or extraordinary expenses.  Each case can present unique circumstances which may warrant a deviation.  The court has wide discretion on whether to deviate.

I pay my child support, do I have to pay extra for activities, daycare and medical expenses?

Regardless of whether you are paying child support according to the shared placement formula or the primary placement formula, both parties are obligated to share equally in any unreimbursed medical expenses.  The court can also allocate the responsibility, and cost, for carrying health insurance for the child(ren).

Variable expenses such as school activities and day care only require a contribution if it is separately ordered by the court or if you are paying support under the shared placement formula.  If you are under a shared placement formula then you are responsible for variable expenses in proportion to the amount of placement time you have.  For instance, if you have your child(ren) 35% of the time, then you are obligated to pay 35% of the variable expenses under the child support guidelines.  The court, however, can also order a party to contribute to variable expenses even if they do not have shared placement after considering certain factors which are set forth in the statutes.

Do I have to provide my spouse or ex-spouse copies of my W-2 and/or paycheck?

If you are paying or receiving support, then yes, you must provide documentation of your current income or risk being found in contempt of Court.

41 thoughts on “How is Child Support Calculated in Wisconsin?

    • You will have to consult with an experienced family law attorney regarding your question as various types of income are treated differently depending on the exact facts of your situation.

    • Also, is there any consideration given a teacher doesn’t work for 3 months of the year? He also takes the boys to camps during the summer so he doesn’t have to constantly watch them and I’m expected to pay half. Is there any leniency on these guidelines in situations with teachers?

    • The same time as child support ends which is when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes second. If the child doesn’t graduate, then the maximum age is 19.

  1. It’s been three years. I have had my kids for one night a week for that time, mainly because I did not have the room or steady place to live. Now, I own a home and each child has their own room. Is that cause enough to justify a change in order? I would like to have my kids 50/50 with their mother. She is against it. Do I have a case?

    • Anytime there has been a substantial change in circumstances, you can seek a modification of the order. It sounds as if you may have grounds. However, I would suggest you seek a consultation with an experienced divorce or family law attorney in your county to go through your facts and get an opinion one way or the other. Good luck!

  2. What happens if my ex refuses to pay his portion of variable costs? Example: we have a 60/40 split. What if he refuses to pay his 40% of day care expenses? What is the process for me to get that money back?

    On the other hand — if he DOES pay — what is the process? Does he write a check every week? Every month? etc.

    • If someone refuses to comply with any part of a court order, including variable expenses, your only option is to file for a contempt motion. However, sometimes the assistance of an attorney is helpful. I often first sent a “warning letter”, citing the court order and providing receipts/documentation with a demand for payment. This often resolves the situation without having to go to court.

      The process for payment is dictated by your court order. We often put language stating exactly how it is supposed to work and when payment is due. However, if your court order is silent on this, the two of you are either going to have to work out an agreement on this or you may have to return to court to get some specific orders on that. Usually, it is a monthly payment.

  3. If I have joint custody of my children and pay for their medical insurance what will my child support payments be? What percentage for 2 children?

    • Child support is based upon the placement schedule (number of overnights) and your income or, in the case of shared placement (more than 92 overnights per year), the incomes of both parties. Joint custody has nothing to do with child support. Also, sometimes you may be given credit for the cost of the children’s health insurance but not always. If you do not have shared placement, then child support starts at 25% of your gross income, although that percentage decreases as your income gets higher (over $84,000 per year). If you have shared placement, then it is a complicated formula which must be calculated based on several different factors. If you want a specific number based on your specific situation, your best bet is to consult with an experienced family lawyer in your area.

  4. My ex is remarried and has 2 additional children with her new husband. She hasnt worked in years because he makes enough to support them – 100k. Does any of his income get considered into the calculation?

  5. someone told me that they just recently changed in support income? wonder if its true? it ex takes a job with a paycut they still have to pay the same amount of support they were previously.

    • I’m not sure what your first question is really. However, in answer to your other question, if someone voluntarily takes a pay cut and then asks for a reduction in support, the court will often deny the request. The only exception is if they lose their job through no fault of their own (laid off, injured on the job, position eliminated, etc.) and/or they can show that their new job is a reasonable choice despite the lower pay (couldn’t find another job, will earn more later on, better benefits, fewer hours, less travel, etc.).

  6. At what age can “daycare” payment stop/ or be refused to pay. Example if children are in after school program and age 10 and 12. Does “daycare” in a MSA relate?

    • Daycare is daycare, regardless of age. However, whether to continue a child in daycare after a certain age may be a joint custodial decision under certain circumstances. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney to go through all of the facts to determine what the options are in this case, one way or the other. Good luck.

  7. My question is I have one child still at home. Got divorced and he only had to pay towards one of the kids insurance. I still receive that amount but it was 50/50. Now only having the 1 at home 100% can I go back to court for the 17%?

    • I’m sorry but it is too difficult to answer your question without more (all) of the facts. I would suggest that you contact an experienced divorce attorney in your area to go through all of the facts with him/her to get an opinion. Most attorneys offer free consultations.

  8. My husband has agreed to terms for us to file a stipulation for a temporary order. He has less than 25% placement and there are 4 minor children. Where he works, he receives quarterly bonuses which vary in amount, and works a fair amount of sporadic overtime. On the stipulation form it requests we indicate an amount for child support and I don’t know how the court would calculate it; if it would just be on his base wages or how we would include the bonuses and overtime.

    • There are several different ways to handle this kind of support order. I’m afraid I cannot tell you which method is the best for your particular situation without discussing all of the facts. There are some creative ways you can handle this but the standard stipulation form often doesn’t allow you the space to write those in. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney who can better assist you with this after reviewing all of your documents, facts and issues to come up with the best solution for you. Most family law attorneys offer free consultations. Good luck.

  9. My ex declined any child support or maintenance when we initially divorced. We have two children together.

    I was with someone else after that for 6 years. During that time, we had a child as well, and since we split up, I am paying 17% of my income to her and that one child.

    Now my ex-wife has decided to ask for child support for my two children with her. She is since married and they have a dual income. It has been 7 years since our divorce and initial agreement

    I am wondering if this is legal to ask for child support to begin after 7 years have passed declining it? And if so, how much would she be granted? How is it divided between my three children? Is it by oldest first, or first to file, or other?

    I live in Wisconsin

    • Child support is always subject to modification based upon a substantial change in circumstances. The passage of 33 months is considered to be a substantial change pursuant to statute so, yes, she can ask for a modification. The court will consider all circumstances at the time of the modification hearing including the placement schedule, your current income and her income, if there is shared placement. Her new husband’s income or household income is largely irrelevant.

      When calculating support, you are what is called a “serial payor.” The guidelines say that you get a credit for obligations based on birth order for marital children and date of orders for non-marital children. The child support standards generally dictate that “first kids come first”. You have somewhat of a unique situation in that you have an order for another child prior to the order for the first two children. You can argue given those circumstances that you should get a credit for the order for your non-marital child because it came first. However, I believe the child support guidelines would consider your first two (marital) children as “first” and you would likely not get credit. You should have received credit for your obligations to those first two children when your paternity order was entered, even if there was no order for those two. If you didn’t, you should go back and get an adjustment on that paternity order after the new order for your first two marital children is established.

      I understand this is very confusing and attorneys sometimes even scratch their heads on these issues. I would suggest that you consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to assist you in this matter. Good luck!

  10. what if my overtime is being cut , but the judge basis my child support payments off the overtime that i was working. can i go back and get it reduced right away?

    • If you have proof from your employer that you no longer have overtime available, then it may be possible to modify child support right away. However, that is a discretionary decision for the court or the court commissioner to decide. There is no guarantee one way or the other.

  11. Is there a statue or certain law that dictates that a payer of child support has to report changes in income? I am in the process of filling out contempt of court papers because he failed to notify me or child support of a $5/hour increase in wages since our last order.

    • Yes, both Section 767.54 and 767.58 requires a party to notify the other of a “substantial” change in circumstances in income and an annual exchange of financial information. However, believe it or not, $5 per hour may not be considered to be a substantial change in circumstances depending on his support obligation. For example, 17% of that additional income is $147 per month. But, if he is already paying $2,000 per month, $147 per month may not be a substantial change in comparison. Of course, if he is only paying $500 per month, then $147 definitely would be a substantial change. Or, if you have shared placement, $5 per hour may only make a small difference in the support obligation. So, in order to determine whether there has been a substantial change, you not only have to look at income but you have to look at what effect that has on his child support obligation.

      • Thank you. Yes it definately is significant. He was only based on $13/hour & 88.40 a week.. jumping to $18/hour is an increase of almost $40 a week.

      • Also since i am doing this on my own. Do you have any idea as to where the extra copies should go to after it is filed? They cant tell me at the clerk of courts when i filed. She did say to take at least 2 to the sheriff dept for process of service. But after that I am unsure.
        Thank you

        • You really only need 4 – one for the Court, one for you, one for him and one for the sheriff to attach to the Affidavit of Service. The rest are extra copies but it never hurts to have some of those. For example, sometimes when I get to Court, the court doesn’t have the file or the motion doesn’t make it into the file. Then it helps to have an extra copy to give to the Court on the day of the hearing.

  12. This may be a dumb question, but 2 of my 4 children are now over 18 (oldest is 21) and I am still paying the same amount as when they were all under 18. What mechanism is in place for when they get older? Or is it up to me to get the amount changed? I was under the impression the amount would reduce on it’s own.

    • No, the amount is not automatically reduced. You need to seek a modification by filing a motion. The fact that your children have reached the age of majority is definitely a substantial change of circumstances upon which a modification of child support can be based. However, I always advise my clients to first calculate what the new child support order would be before you file a motion. For example, if you were paying full child support for 4 children (31%) before, the new order would then be 25% of your gross income for two children. 6% is not much of a reduction, especially if your income has gone up since the last order was entered. I have had situations where the new percentage of a parent’s current income is actually MORE than what they were paying before. In that case, you would not want to request any change of support. If you have shared placement, you may need the assistance of an attorney to calculate what your new child support would be. For the best results, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.

    • Generally, yes, you would get credit for 1/2 of the cost for the children (difference between single and family or single plus children). There are, however, exceptions based on the facts.

  13. I have noticed other states do not calculate overtime into payments.
    I make $12.75 an hour and they want to raise my payment to $470 a month.
    How am I supposed to pay my bills when I do not have overtime when I am living paycheck to paycheck?
    It is unfair, and I want to know who I have to vote out of State Office to create real change to amend this broken ass system.
    Empowering a mother who refused to let me have my time with my daughter so she can maximize her payments, while she works part-time and pays $200 rent in a row house on food stamps. When I am a willing father to provide care for my daughter.
    9 years and my case is dismissed every time only to have my daughter financially extorted from me through the judicicial system. I am not denying the costs to raise a child, I am denying the mothers priviledge to do as she wishes.

    • Pursuant to statute, all income is available for child support purposes, including overtime. If your overtime is inconsistent, there are ways we can address that which do not penalize you in weeks that you do not work overtime. For example, we can reconcile at the end of the year or perhaps take a percentage of a bonus. Either way, however, you do need to pay child support on that extra income unless the mother agrees to waive it. I usually suggest to my clients that they put money away to cover bills when they do not have overtime (easier said than done, I know!). Your best option is to speak to an experienced family law attorney who may have suggestions or advice for you based on your specific situation.

  14. What if the father is a college student? We are about to have a baby and I want to know how much I could expect from him to raise this child. I will not have additional help from my parents (unless I want to go to college, which they will pay for). If I do go to college, I will also need a part-time job to pay for my portion of living expenses, so I will need to pay for day care when I work and when I’m in class. I don’t think the father will want any substantial custody of the child, certainly not more than 25%. I am 18 and the father is 19. Should I consider food stamps or other assistance?

    • Unfortunately, having a baby imposes certain financial obligations on both parties, including the father, which means that neither of you may have the luxury of going to school full-time. The court will likely set a child support obligation for him based on what the court thinks is a reasonable course of action for him to take. However, these are all very good questions that are better discussed in detail with an experienced family law attorney. I strongly suggest you meet with someone in your area. Most family lawyers offer free consultations. Good luck.

  15. Are there any additional things like 403b or any other benefits that a state of Wisconsin employee (teacher) has that should also be included in their pay besides just their gross pay? He gets many other states benefits that I don’t get and my retirement is taken off my pay whereas I don’t believe his is.

    • This is something to discuss with an attorney but, generally, no. Benefits are not part of someone’s income. However, if it is considered taxable income such as a bonus, reward or vehicle allowance, those can be considered to be part of income for support purposes.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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