How to Calculate Child Support Payments in Wisconsin

Learn how to calculate child support in Wisconsin, when the amount of support may be different than what’s calculated under the state’s guidelines, and how to apply for, collect, and modify child support.

By , Legal Editor

Using Wisconsin's Child Support Worksheets

Wisconsin doesn't have an official online calculator for child support. However, the state's Department of Children and Families (DCF) does provide tools to estimate child support in different physical placement (custody) arrangements, including when:

  • one parent has the children for more than 75% of the time (use the child support percentage conversion table)
  • both parents have the children at least 25% of the time, or 92 overnights out of the year ("shared placement")
  • each parent has custody of at least one of the parents' children ("split placement")
  • a parent supports more than one family ("serial family cases"), and
  • the parent who's paying support has income below or above certain thresholds ("high income" and "low income" cases).

Before you use these tools, you'll need to have some basic information on hand, including:

  • your parenting schedule (the percentage of time each parent will have the children), and
  • income for both parents (or, if one parent will have the children for more than 75% of the time, just the other parent's income.

When Support May Deviate From Wisconsin's Child Support Guidelines

If you don't believe that the amount of child support calculated under Wisconsin's guidelines would be appropriate in your case, you may ask the judge to order a different amount. Whether you and your co-parent have agreed on a different amount or a judge decides for you, the judge will have to decide that the guideline amount would be unfair to your child or to either parent. (Wis. Stat. § 767.511 (2024).)

Learn more about how child support works in Wisconsin, including the factors judges must consider when they're deciding whether to depart from the guideline amount of support, as well as adjustments and additions to support.

How to Apply for Child Support in Wisconsin

Typically, you'll apply for child support as part of the process of filing for divorce in Wisconsin.

If you aren't married to your child's other parent, you may get help with requesting support by applying for child support services with your local Wisconsin child support agency. If needed, the agency may also help with establishing the child's legal paternity.

How to Collect Child Support in Wisconsin

Child support is usually paid through income withholding—meaning that the paying parent's employer will take the support payments out of that parent's paychecks and send it to the state. When an income withholding order won't work (such as when parents are self-employed or between jobs), there are other methods of paying child support through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund. Whatever the payment method, the state will turn over the collected money to the parent who's receiving the child support.

When parents are behind with support payments, Wisconsin's child support agencies can also help enforce child support. Depending on how much is owed, the agencies can take a number of enforcement actions, including reporting the debt to credit bureaus, intercepting income tax refunds, seizing money from bank accounts, placing liens on property (so the delinquent parent can't sell it or borrow money before paying off the debt), suspending the parent's driver's or other licenses, and filing actions in court.

How to Change the Amount of Child Support in Wisconsin

If you want to change the amount of child support you're paying or receiving, you'll need to get an order from a judge. There are different ways to request a modification order:

  • If you and the other parent agree on the proposed modification, you may file a "Stipulation to Change" with the county court clerk.
  • Either parent may file a motion (request) for a modification with the court clerk.
  • You may ask your local child support agency to review your existing support order. If the agency proceeds with a review and decides that a modification is required, it will ask the parents to sign an agreement. If they don't agree, the agency will request a modification from the court.

Whichever route you take, a judge will have to decide whether to change the order. And Wisconsin judges won't do that unless they find there's been a substantial change in circumstances (such as a significant change in the paying parent's income or the child's needs) since the existing order went into effect. (Wis. Stat. § 767.59(1f) (2024).)

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