Wisconsin has adopted percentage guidelines, which make the determination of child support in most routine cases, clear cut. Unless the court finds a reason for not applying the percentage guidelines, or unless, the parent who does not have primary physical placement is considered a shared time payor, then the court will order child support as follows:
- one child --- 17%
- two children -- 25%
- three children -- 29%
- four children -- 31%
- five children -- 33%
The percentage order is made based upon the gross income of the person paying the support. This means total pay, not take home. Assume a parent has income of $2,000 per month, and take home of $1,500. The child support for one child would be $340 per month, two children $500, three children $580, etc.
Most child support is taken directly out of an employees paycheck, by what is called wage assignment and is removed on the same interval as an employee gets paid. This money is then forwarded on to the clerk of courts.
In addition to being ordered to pay child support, a former spouse can also be required to maintenance after a divorce. Unfortunately, there is probably nothing harder to predict in the outcome of a divorce than length and amount of maintenance which may be awarded. Each case is different and each trial judge looks at similar cases, a little differently. While typically the appellate courts would help to iron out the differences between judges, in practice, there is little agreement amongst appellate judges on what is appropriate. Thus, maintenance is the most unpredictable, and often the hardest fought economic issue.
Maintenance was essentially "invented" to protect housewives of long term marriages from financial hardship if they were get divorced, and few people would argue that it was appropriate in situation similar to if our fathers had divorced our mothers. But with the radical change in spousal roles and income earning potential, and the greater frequency of divorce, maintenance awards can be very controversial and create long term bitterness between the parties.
As enunciated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court maintenance has two purposes: to provide for the support of a former spouse and assure fairness in terms of economic resources after a divorce. The starting point for a maintenance calculation is to equalize the earning capacity of two parties. Thus, if one spouse was earning $100,000 and the other nothing, maintenance might be ordered in the amount of $50,000. And if this was a divorce for people who had been married for more than a generation, and had raised children, the non working spouse might receive such maintenance for life. But when both spouses work, and the marriage is 10 years or less, rarely does maintenance completely equalize the income and it may be for a relatively short duration.
The legislature has pronounced the following 10 factors for a court to consider in a maintenance award:
767.26 Maintenance payments. (1) The length of the marriage. (2) The age and physical and emotional health of the parties. (3) The division of property made under s. 767.255. (4) The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced. (5) The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment. (6) The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can be-come selfsupporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal. (7) The tax consequences to each party. (8) Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, where such repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties. (9) The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other. (10) Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant.