The following is a summary of Wisconsin child support laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Wisconsin Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Definition of Gross Income.

Gross income” means all of the following:

  1. Salary and wages.
  2. Interest and investment income.
  3. Social Security disability and old-age insurance benefits under 42 USC 401 to 433.
  4. Net proceeds resulting from worker’s compensation or other personal injury awards intended to replace income.
  5. Unemployment insurance.
  6. Income continuation benefits.
  7. Voluntary deferred compensation, employee contributions to any employee benefit plan or profit–sharing, and voluntary employee contributions to any pension or retirement account whether or not the account provides for tax deferral or avoidance.
  8. Military allowances and veterans benefits.
  9. Undistributed income of a corporation, including a closely–held corporation, or any partnership, including a limited or limited liability partnership, in which the parent has an ownership interest sufficient to individually exercise control or to access the earnings of the business, unless the income included is an asset under s. DWD 40.03 (4). In this paragraph:
    1. “Undistributed income” means federal taxable income of the closely held corporation, partnership, or other entity plus depreciation claimed on the entity’s federal income tax return less a reasonable allowance for economic depreciation.
    2. A “reasonable allowance for economic depreciation” means the amount of depreciation on assets computed using the straight line method and useful lives as determined under federal income tax laws and regulations. Note: Income considered under this subsection is subject to the adjustments under s. DWD 40.03 (2).
  10. All other income, whether taxable or not, except that gross income does not include any of the following:
    1. Child support.
    2. Foster care payments under s. 48.62, Stats.
    3. Kinship care payments under s. 48.57 (3m) or (3n), Stats.
    4. Public assistance benefits under ch. 49, Stats., except that child care subsidy payments under s. 49.155, Stats., shall be considered income to a child care provider.
    5. Food stamps under 7 USC 2011 to 2036.
    6. Cash benefits paid by counties under s. 59.53 (21), Stats.
    7. Supplemental Security Income under 42 USC 1381 to 1383f and state supplemental payments under s. 49.77, Stats.
    8. Payments made for social services or any other public assistance benefits.

-From DWD 40.02

Self-Employed Income.

For self-employed parents, gross income is reduced by the business expenses that the court determines are reasonably necessary for the production of that income or operation of the business and that may differ from the determination of allowable business expenses for tax purposes.

-From DWD 40.03

Imputed Income.

In situations where the income of a parent is less than the parent’s earning capacity or is unknown, the court may impute income to the parent at an amount that represents the parent’s ability to earn, based on the parent’s education, training and recent work experience, earnings during previous periods, current physical and mental health, history of child care responsibilities as the parent with primary physical placement, and the availability of work in or near the parent’s community. If evidence is presented that due diligence has been exercised to ascertain information on the parent’s actual income or ability to earn and that information is unavailable, the court may impute to the parent the income that a person would earn by working 35 hours per week for the federal minimum hourly wage under 29 USC 206 (a)(1). If a parent has gross income or income modified for business expenses below his or her earning capacity, the income imputed based on earning capacity shall be the difference between the parent’s earning
capacity and the parent’s gross income or income modified for business expenses.

Percentage of Child Support Obligation.

The court shall determine a parent’s monthly income available for child support by adding together the parent’s annual gross income, and dividing that total by 12. Except as provided in s. DWD 40.04 (4) and (5), the percentage of the parent’s monthly income available for child support or adjusted monthly income available for child support that constitutes the child support obligation shall be:

  • 17% for one child;
  • 25% for 2 children;
  • 29% for 3 children;
  • 31% for 4 children; and
  • 34% for 5 or more children.

-From DWD 40.03

Health Care Expenses.

In addition to ordering child support, the court shall specifically assign responsibility for and direct the manner of payment of the child’s health care expenses.

-From Section 767.513 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Deviation from Child Support Guidelines.

Upon request by a party, the court may deviate from the child support guidelines if, after considering the following factors, the court finds by the greater weight of the credible evidence that use of the percentage standard is unfair to the child or to any of the parties:

  1. The financial resources of the child.
  2. The financial resources of both parents.
  3. If the parties were married, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended in annulment, divorce or legal separation.
  4. The desirability that the custodian remain in the home as a full-time parent.
  5. The cost of day 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.
  6. The physical, mental, and emotional health needs of the child, including any costs for health insurance as provided for under s. 767.513.
  7. The child’s educational needs.
  8. The tax consequences to each party.
  9. Any other factors which the court in each case determines are relevant.

-From Section 767.511 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Length of Child Support Obligation.

The court shall order either party or both to pay for the support of any child of the parties who is less than 18 years old, or any child of the parties who is less than 19 years old if the child is pursuing an accredited course of instruction leading to the acquisition of a high school diploma or its equivalent.

-From Section 767.511 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

Withholding Support.

Violation of physical placement rights by the custodial parent does not constitute reason for failure to meet child support obligations.

-From Section 767.511 of the Wisconsin Statutes.


This information has been summarized from the Wisconsin statutes. You can find the full-text version of these and other Wisconsin divorce statutes online here: Wisconsin Divorce Laws.




IMPORTANT: Help Yourself Divorce is a paralegal service, not a law firm. Please don’t rely on this information for legal advice. Seek help from an attorney if you need legal advice.


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