The child support guidelines set out five “special circumstances” courts may (but are not required to) consider in determining child support. See Wisconsin Administrative Code DCF 150.04.
Serial Payer (DCF 150.04(1))
If a parent with a child support obligation has a previous child support obligation for older children, the court may deduct from the parent’s gross income the previous child support amount, and then apply the guidelines to this reduced income to determine a child support amount.
Shared Placement (DCF 150.04(2))
The court has discretion to apply a formula for child support when the parents share placement of their children. Each parent’s child support obligation is determined according to the following formula: multiply the parent’s gross income by the applicable percentage standard (17% for one child, 25% for two children, etc.); multiply that amount by 1.5; and then multiply that amount by the percentage of placement the other parent has. Whichever parent has the larger child support obligation under this formula pays the other parent the difference between the two amounts. Because of income disparities, this formula can result in one parent having primary placement of the children, but paying child support to the other parent.
Split Placement (DCF 150.04(3))
In some families with multiple children, each child has a different placement schedule (for example, one child resides primarily with one parent, and the other child with the other parent). The court may apply the split placement formula to compare both parents’ incomes and the placement arrangements to establish a child support order based on the facts of the individual case.
Low Income (DCF 150.04(4))
The guidelines permit a reduced child support amount for low-income payers.
High Income (DCF 150.04(5))
The court may reduce a person’s obligation to pay child support by applying a high-income formula to any monthly income above $7,000. A second reduction may be applied to monthly income that exceeds $12,500.
Combination of Special Circumstances (DCF 150.04(6))
Finally, the court has discretion to apply a combination of these special circumstances. For example, the court may apply the high-income formula and the shared parent formula to establish child support. The court could also reduce gross income under the serial payer formula and then apply the shared placement formula.
This is a recent change in the law, and not all courts are aware that various special circumstances can be combined. In a recent case the attorneys at Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle filed a written argument alerting the court that both the high-income formula and the shared placement formula may be applied in a single case.