Wisconsin Child Support & Parenting Time Calculations
Wisconsin uses overnights, or where the children sleep, as well as significant day visits as the basis for figuring shared custody timeshare percentages in its child support formula. These totals then convert to a percentage
Besides income, parenting time percentages are a key part of the Wisconsin child support formula. Your parenting time directly affects your child support, whether you pay or receive.
Wisconsin attorneys and judges often rely on overnight estimates only, even if they are incorrect, because counting total hours is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents usually rely on these estimates as well.
Using estimates means your overnight totals can be wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.
To calculate parenting time, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to count each hour for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.
The leading parenting time calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your parenting time to see if it was estimated incorrectly.
Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total time, and you can see how your parenting time percentages change each year due to holidays and other events.
You can also track what actually happens, and show how much parenting time you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.
In any divorce, Wisconsin family courts award custody of the children to one or both parents. Custody is divided into legal custody and physical custody. Child support amounts are tied to physical custody designations.
Wisconsin sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to overnight visitations. In Wisconsin, when the non-residential parent has 92 or fewer overnights, or less than 25% of the total time with the children, the family court considers it a sole custody case.
Wisconsin joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Wisconsin requires that each parent host more than 92 overnights, or 25% of the time per year, to qualify for joint physical custody.
The parenting time percentage only figures into a joint physical custody case. A sole physical custody case is figured using a different formula, without offering any parenting time credit.
Sole physical custody formula: Wisconsin family courts use a formula that multiplies the non-custodial parent's adjusted income by a percentage representing the number of children involved. The non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent. Parenting time does not factor into the formula.
Joint physical custody formula: Wisconsin family courts use a formula that adjusts the amount of child support payment based on the number of day visits and overnights that each parent has with the children. This total is converted to a percentage. As the parenting time totals increase, the amount of child support decreases.
Look at a sole custody scenario for a hypothetical child support case in Wisconsin. Robert earns $4,000 per month. Mary earns $2,400 per month. They have two children.
Because Robert will host the children for fewer than 92 overnights, he is the non-residential parent.
To calculate child support, Wisconsin family courts will only take Robert's annual income and multiply it by an assigned percentage that represents the number of children.
The percentages used to calculate a Wisconsin child support award are:
- One child --- 17%
- Two children -- 25%
- Three children -- 29%
- Four children -- 31%
- Five children -- 33%
So, $4,000 x 12 months = $48,000 x .25 (two children) = $12,000 ÷ 12 months = $1,000 in child support.
Robert will pay $1,000 in child support each month for their two children.
In Wisconsin, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent, regardless of which parent earns more. If the custody was reversed, and Robert had sole physical custody of the children, Mary would pay child support based on her income to Robert.
Consider the hypothetical case of Robert and Mary. Robert's adjusted monthly income is $4,000 per month, while Mary's adjusted monthly income is $2,400 per year. They have two children.
See how the child support amounts change in these examples:
- Scenario #1: Robert hosts the children for 94 days, just over the minimum to qualify for joint physical custody. He pays $881 in child support per month to Mary.
- Scenario #2: Robert hosts the children for 125 days. He pays $678 in child support per month to Mary.
- Scenario #3: Robert hosts the children for 145 days. He pays $546 in child support per month to Mary.
- Scenario #4: Robert hosts the children for 165 days. He pays $416 in child support per month to Mary.
- Scenario #5: Robert and Mary agree to a 50/50 split, or 182 days. He pays $303 in child support per month to Mary. This is because he is the higher earner.
In Wisconsin joint custody, the non-residential parent pays child support to the residential parent.
In the case of a 50/50 split, the higher earner generally pays child support to the lower earner to ensure the children's standard of living is the same in both locations.
Wisconsin's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for joint custody child support:
Eligible children: In Wisconsin, child support payments continue for each child until he or she turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever event occurs last.
Gross earnings: Gross earnings are established based on tax records and current pay stubs. Wisconsin law uses one parent's income from the equivalent of one full-time job to determine a child support amount in sole custody cases. Both incomes figure into joint custody child support.
Specific deductions: There are some deductions allowed by Wisconsin family courts that allow an adjustment of the income, including health insurance premiums for the children, support for other children and child care expenses, for example.
Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.
Here are some other reasons why accurate parenting time percentages help you, the other parent and your children:
- It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
- It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
- It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
- It is compliant with Wisconsin law
Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.
To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Wisconsin, remember these 5 things:
- Wisconsin Child Support Guidelines award sole or joint physical custody based on the number of overnights the non-residential parent receives.
- Sole physical custody child support formulas assume the non-residential parent is hosting for fewer than 92 overnights, or less than 25%, and uses that parent's income to figure child support. Parenting time doesn't provide any kind of credit toward child support.
- The joint physical custody child support formula include a parenting time adjustment, which is based on the total overnights that exceed 92 each year.
- Wisconsin family courts figure parenting time based on overnights and significant day visits, totaled up and converted to a percentage.
- The higher the parenting time percentage, the lower the child support amount, generally.
Use Custody X Change software to create a custody schedule that will quickly calculate the total parenting time for the Wisconsin child support formula.
As you negotiate what kind of custody schedule will best fit your needs, the software will accurately calculate your overnights.