The laws surrounding child support can be confusing and difficult. There may be various legal issues and disputes that can arise in connection with support payment amounts, payment timing, use of the support money, and other issues.

In Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Child Support Program can help you understand what you may owe or are owed with regard to child support. Child support payments can be calculated based on various factors, including:

  • The number of children involved in the support payments;
  • Whether the child or children have any special needs (medical, academic, and sometimes extra-curricular activities may be considered);
  • History of payments between the parents;
  • Whether the paying parent has the ability to pay or not;
  • Geographic location of the parties, cost of living, and other demographic information; and/or
  • Various other factors.

Wisconsin Family Law: Who Needs to Pay Child Support?

In most child support arrangements, one parent will be making regular child support payments to the other parent. Usually, it is the “custodial parent” that collects the payments, and the “non-custodial parent” that is required to provide the support payments.

The custodial parent is the parent that the child stays with for the majority of the time; the non-custodial parent is the other parent. This arrangement is usually created because the custodial parent may have more responsibilities and expenses for the child than the non-custodial parent.

The custodial parent is paid child support by the noncustodial parent. If the parents have a shared custody arrangement, then the amount of time the child spend with each parent is taken into account when calculating the amount that a parent must pay towards the child’s upbringing. However, child support obligations do not disappear just because you share custody.

Wisconsin Family Law: How Can I Petition for Child Support?

You can apply for child support either through the courts if you are also determining custody or through your local child support office. You will be required to fill out forms that will ask you to provide the other parent’s name, social security number, date of birth, phone number, address, and job information, in addition to other information. Be prepared to provide these if you decide to seek help through a Wisconsin child support office. 

Wisconsin Family Law: What If I Do Not Pay Child Support?

If you refuse to pay child support, the Wisconsin Child Support Services Program has a number of ways it can collect the payments. It can first request that your employer take the money directly from your paycheck (also known as “wage garnishment”).

Money can also be taken from your bank accounts, tax refund, any settlement you receive, or your pension. The Child Support Program can also ask the court to place a lien on your property. Additionally, the court might also find you in contempt and you can be fined or jailed.

Wisconsin Family Law: How does Wage Garnishment Work?

Wage garnishment may be ordered in child support cases where the paying parent has continually missed their payments over time. The way it works is that the parent’s employer will be allowed to set aside a portion of the person’s paycheck, which will be used directly for child support payments.

They can either pay the amount directly to the court, or in some cases, they can transfer the funds to a third party that will handle and process the payments. Garnishment can be an effective method because there is no way for the paying parent to divert those funds for other personal uses.

Wisconsin Family Law: What Can the Other Parent Do If I Do Not Pay Support?

When a noncustodial parent fails to pay child support, the custodial parent may withhold visitation in an attempt to force the noncustodial parent to pay. However, visitation is unrelated to child support. If you are owed visitation, you can go to court and ask that the court make the other parent stick to the visitation agreement.

But remember, refusing to pay child support vs. not being able to afford to pay child support are two entirely different matters. If you refuse to pay child support, then it can reflect poorly on you and the custodial parent can put in a petition for modify the existing order. Not for lack of payment, but for the refusal of payment.

The court would not punish a parent who is unable to afford it due to circumstances, but if there is willful intent to withhold payment in order to punish or deprive the child, then it is reasonable for the court to take this bad intent as a sign that visitation is not in the best interest of the child.

Wisconsin Family Law: How Can I Stop Paying Child Support?

Ending child support is something that must be done legally with the assistance of the court. Trying to do this on your own can have serious consequences for you. For Wisconsin residents, child support ends when the child turns 18 years old, or 19 if the child is still in high school.

Both parents can make an agreement to stop child support, but you still have to go to court to have the new agreement approved. Also, if you believe you are not the child’s biological father, and thus not liable for child support, you have the right to go to court and demand a paternity test.

There is a “presumption of paternity” for couples that are legally married, even if they are separated for a long period of time. This means a couple that is separated for five years (but still legally married), if one of the partners gives birth to a biological child then there is a presumption of paternity for the legal spouse. If the couple is legally separated, as in there was an official court order that issued the separation, then there is no presumption.

Where Can I Find the Right Family Lawyer in Wisconsin?

Child support cases can get complicated and vicious, with the parents often getting involved in some serious legal disputes. Thus, you should talk to a Wisconsin child support lawyer about your case as soon as possible. They can represent you in court and act as your advocate in any negotiations with the other parent.