Can a Court Deviate from the Child Support Percentage Guidelines in Wisconsin?

Calculating child support in Wisconsin is typically straightforward. A specific percentage of the payors total monthly income (gross, not net) is taken to support the child or children of whom the payor is obligated to support. When one parent has primary placement of the child (75% or more of the overnights in a year), child support is set at 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children, and 34% for five children or more.

But what happens when there is good reason to deviate from this equation? For example, what happens when a parent has primary placement of their disabled child, and this disability requires special accommodations that are not fairly covered by the typical child support percentage?

Or, the court can also deviate by setting child support lower than the percentage guidelines in certain situations.  For example, what happens when the payor has very low income or the payee has very high income or resources?  Or, when a payor has to incur excessive travel costs to exercise his or her placement with the children?  In these types of situations, the court will sometimes give a credit or reduction of the child support obligations of the payor.

Wisconsin law does provide for deviations in situations such as these. Deviations from the percentage standard may be awarded by the court, if the court finds, after considering a number of factors, the use of the percentage standard is unfair to the child or to any of the parties. The factors the court must consider are laid out in Wis. Stats. 767.511 (1m)(f) and the most typical the court considers in a deviation is the following:-The financial resources of both parents.

  •  The needs of each party in order to support himself or herself at a level equal to or greater than the poverty line (established under 42 USC 9902(2)).
  •  The desirability that the custodian remain in the home as a full-time parent.
  • The cost of child 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.
  •  Extraordinary travel expenses incurred by exercising the right to periods of physical placement under the Wisconsin child custody statute
  • The physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child, including any costs for health insurance.
  • The child’s educational needs.

If a court deviates from the statutory standards, the court has to explain its deviation. In the example regarding a physically disabled child with extraordinary needs, a court could order a higher amount of child support due to the physical needs of the child and the costs to accommodate those needs which may exceed the “typical” costs for one child.

The amount of the deviation is solely at the discretion of the court and will be based upon all of the facts and circumstances presented.  If you believe that your child support is unfair and that one of the factors listed above applies to your case, please contact our office at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial office consultation or visit our website for more information.

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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