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.

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 http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/bcs/order/guidelines_tools.htm

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.