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Establishing Paternity and Child Support: A Comprehensive Guide for Wisconsin Parents

Establishing Paternity in Wisconsin: A Comprehensive Guide

As a parent, one of the most important decisions you need to make is establishing paternity. Paternity is simply the legal recognition of a person as the father of a child.

It is crucial for both parents to establish paternity early on to ensure that the child receives all the benefits and responsibilities that come with having a father. In Wisconsin, there are several ways to establish paternity- voluntary paternity acknowledgement, court ruling, legitimation, and parenting plan submission.

This article will provide you with comprehensive information on how to establish paternity in Wisconsin, including child support calculation, financial management services, case management services, paternity establishment, non-payment consequences, emancipation laws, and changes in child support laws.

Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement

In Wisconsin, the easiest way to establish paternity is through voluntary paternity acknowledgment. This process is available to unwed parents who agree on who the father of their child is.

Once both parents sign a document known as a disavowal form, they acknowledge that the man who signed the document is the father of the child. They also waive their right to court proceedings to establish paternity.

This process can be done at the hospital when the child is born or any time after that.

Court Ruling

If the parents cannot agree on who the father of the child is, they can seek a court ruling. The court will require both parents and the child to undergo DNA testing.

Once paternity is established, the court will issue a ruling that declares who the father of the child is. The court ruling is legally binding and must be followed by both parents.


When a child is born to married parents, the father is automatically considered the legal father. However, if the child is born to parents who are not married, the father must take an additional step to become the legal father.

In Wisconsin, the father can become the legal father by marrying the child’s mother before or after the child is born or by filing a petition for legitimation.

Parenting Plan Submission

The last option for establishing paternity is through parenting plan submission. A parenting plan is a written agreement signed by both parents that outlines how they will share parenting responsibilities and how decision-making for the child will be handled.

The parenting plan establishes that both parents have legal rights over the child.

Financial Management and Case Management Services

When you establish paternity and the court orders child support payments, you must ensure that the payments are made appropriately and on time. Wisconsin provides financial management and case management services to assist parents in enforcing child support orders.

Financial management service helps parents with budgeting and managing money while the case management service offers assistance in locating the non-custodial parent and enforcing court orders.

Paternity Establishment Process

Establishing paternity is crucial, not only for child support but also for medical records, inheritance rights, and access to benefits such as social security, veteran’s benefits, and survivor benefits. In Wisconsin, the paternity establishment process starts with the voluntary paternity acknowledgement process or a court order.

DNA testing is required to establish paternity. In cases where the father is not present to undergo DNA testing, the court may issue a subpoena to require the father to take a DNA test.

Child Support Calculation

In Wisconsin, child support is determined based on the income of both parents and the needs of the child. The Wisconsin Child Support Formula takes into account the number of children the parents have, health care expenses, and extraordinary expenses such as education expenses, day-care costs, and transportation expenses.

The formula also considers the amount of time each parent spends with the child, and if one parent has primary physical custody, then the non-custodial parent must pay child support.

Child Support Law Changes

The Wisconsin Child Support Program regularly reviews and modifies child support guidelines to ensure they reflect current economic conditions and the cost of living. New laws recently enacted in Wisconsin require courts to take into account the financial resources of the custodial parent when determining child support payments.

Courts must also consider whether the custodial parent’s income or assets are significantly greater than the other parent’s income or assets.

Modifying Child Support Orders

If circumstances change, either parent can request a modification of the child support order. For example, a parent may lose their job or suffer a medical emergency that makes it impossible to make the payment.

In such cases, the parent can file a petition to modify the court order. Before a court modifies a child support order, it must determine if there has been a substantial change in circumstances that justifies modifying the order.

Non-Payment Consequences

If a parent fails to make child support payments, the consequences can be severe. This can include wage garnishment, asset seizure, driver’s license suspension, and tax return seizure.

The state of Wisconsin takes child support seriously and has strict policies that are meant to ensure that every child receives the necessary financial support from both parents.

Emancipation Laws in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has no automatic emancipation for minors when they reach a certain age. Instead, emancipation must be granted by a court.

To be emancipated in Wisconsin, the minor must meet certain requirements, such as demonstrating financial independence, completing high school, and obtaining full-time employment.


Establishing paternity is crucial for every parent. It ensures that the child receives all the benefits and responsibilities that come with having a legal father.

In Wisconsin, there are several ways to establish paternity- voluntary paternity acknowledgement, court ruling, legitimation, and parenting plan submission. Once paternity is established, parents can seek financial management and case management services to help with enforcing child support orders.

It is essential to understand child support calculation and modifications, non-payment consequences, and emancipation laws in Wisconsin. By following these guidelines, parents can ensure that their child receives the necessary financial support to lead a healthy and successful life.

Child Support Calculation in Wisconsin: Understanding the

Standard Percentage Model and Determinants of Obligation

Child support is crucial for ensuring that children receive the necessary financial support for their care and growth. In Wisconsin, child support is calculated based on the standard percentage model, which takes into account each parent’s income and the number of children they have.

This model is designed to ensure that the child’s needs are met while being fair and reasonable to both parents. This article will provide you a comprehensive guide to child support calculation, including the standard percentage model, determinants of child support obligation, variable expenses and calculating child support in Wisconsin.

Standard Percentage Model

In Wisconsin, the standard percentage model is used to calculate child support. The model takes into account the gross income of both parents, and a percentage of that income is allocated towards child support.

The percentage allocated increases with the number of children involved. According to the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the percentages are as follows:

– 17% of the non-custodial parent’s income for one child

– 25% of the non-custodial parent’s income for two children

– 29% of the non-custodial parent’s income for three children

– 31% of the non-custodial parent’s income for four children

For five or more children, the court may order a higher percentage of income allocated towards child support.

Determinants of Child Support Obligation

In addition to the standard percentage model, other factors are taken into account when determining child support obligations. These factors include:

– The custodial parent’s income: The custodial parent’s income is also considered when determining child support.

The court calculates the percentage of income they believe the custodial parent should contribute to child support. – Medical expenses: Child support may need to cover medical expenses such as insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses related to medical care.

– Childcare expenses: Child support may need to cover childcare expenses for the custodial parent, such as daycare or after-school care. – Education expenses: Child support may need to cover extracurricular education expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, and enrichment activities.

Variable Expenses

In addition to basic expenses such as food, shelter, and clothing, variable expenses must also be taken into account when calculating child support. Variable expenses are needs not required for daily living expenses.

For instance, expenses associated with extracurricular activities, school trips, sports activities, clubs, and similar programs are considered variables. There are no specific statutory codes to determine variable expenses in Wisconsin.

However, parents must agree on how to deal with variable expenses and pay them on a fair and reasonable basis to the best of their abilities.

Calculating Child Support

Calculating child support can be complex, especially when variable expenses are involved. The Wisconsin child support calculator provides a guide for estimating child support payments, but this calculator is only an estimate and cannot replace the advice of an attorney.

A child support attorney may also help in drafting a fair and complete child support agreement.

Modifying Child Support in Wisconsin

Modifying a child support order can be done in Wisconsin if material circumstances have changed. Both the custodial and non-custodial parents have the right to ask for a modification of child support to ensure that child support payments are in compliance with the latest state laws.

The most common reasons for requesting modifications are a change in income, child’s age, or medical expenses. Here are some tips to help guide you through the process:

Notice for Upkeep Review

Either parent can request a maintenance review if they feel the current child support payment is less than its actual amount. Both parties will receive a notification and have the opportunity to submit a request for a modification.

During the process, both parties need to submit income information and expenses associated with raising the child. The court may then recalibrate child support obligations upon considering both parent’s input.

Substantial Changes in Financial Circumstances

A substantial change in financial circumstance is necessary to warrant a modification of child support. The courts will take into account the best interest of the child while considering such applications.

Courts typically look for situations where a substantial change in income or financial status apply, such as a decrease in the parent’s income, medical bills, or an increase in child care costs.

Reaching an Agreement

Parents can reach a mutual agreement on the amount of child support outside the courtroom. However, the agreement must be approved by a court before it is official.


There are a few legal timelines to keep in mind when considering modifying child support in Wisconsin. Generally, a party must wait two years from the issuance of the child support order before requesting an adjustment.

However, this timeline can be waived if there is a substantial change in circumstance.


Child support calculation and modifications in Wisconsin can be complex procedures. Understanding the standard percentage model and the determinants of child support obligations is essential to ensuring your child has stable and adequate support.

Keeping in mind timelines for modification and reaching a mutual agreement to modify child support can make these proceedings less stressful. Seeking legal representation is crucial when dealing with these issues to ensure fair and adequate support amounts.

Non-Payment Consequences for Child Support in Wisconsin: Ensuring Compliance and Accountability

Child support is a legal and financial obligation that parents have towards their children. Failure to fulfill this obligation can have serious consequences for both the parent and the child.

In Wisconsin, there are several enforcement measures in place to ensure that child support payments are made in a timely manner. This article will provide a comprehensive guide to the non-payment consequences for child support in Wisconsin, including income withholding, administrative liens, license suspension, asset seizure, credit bureau reporting, and the difference between contempt of court and criminal nonsupport charges.

Income Withholding

One of the primary enforcement mechanisms for child support in Wisconsin is income withholding. Income withholding involves deducting child support payments directly from the non-custodial parent’s income.

This can include wages, salaries, bonuses, commissions, and even unemployment benefits. Income withholding is often the most effective method for ensuring consistent and timely child support payments.

Administrative Liens

In cases where child support payments are not made, the Wisconsin Child Support Program can place an administrative lien on the non-custodial parent’s property. This means that the parent will be unable to sell or transfer the property without first satisfying the child support arrears.

The lien can apply to real estate, personal property, or any other assets owned by the non-custodial parent.

License Suspension

License suspension is another consequence that can be imposed on non-custodial parents who fail to meet their child support obligations. The state of Wisconsin has the authority to suspend various licenses, including driver’s licenses, occupational licenses, professional licenses, and recreational licenses.

This can significantly impact the non-custodial parent’s ability to work, travel, or engage in certain activities until the child support payments are brought up to date.

Asset Seizure

In cases of persistent non-payment, the Wisconsin Child Support Program has the power to seize assets owned by the non-custodial parent. This can include bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, and other valuable assets.

The seized assets are then sold, and the proceeds are used to satisfy the child support arrears. Asset seizure is a serious consequence and can have a significant impact on the non-custodial parent’s financial situation.

Credit Bureau Reporting

A further consequence of non-payment of child support in Wisconsin is the reporting of delinquent child support to credit bureaus. When child support payments are not made, the Wisconsin Child Support Program can report the delinquent payments to credit bureaus, which can severely impact the non-custodial parent’s credit score and ability to obtain credit in the future.

This can make it difficult for the non-custodial parent to secure loans, credit cards, or even housing. Contempt of Court vs.

Criminal Nonsupport Charges

In Wisconsin, there are two legal options for addressing non-payment of child support: contempt of court and criminal nonsupport charges. Contempt of court charges are civil in nature and can result in fines, wage garnishment, or even imprisonment for the non-compliant parent.

On the other hand, criminal nonsupport charges are more severe and can result in criminal penalties, including imprisonment. The decision to pursue either contempt of court or criminal nonsupport charges depends on the circumstances of the case and the discretion of the court.

Emancipation Laws in Wisconsin

Emancipation refers to a legal process that allows a minor to be freed from the control and support of their parents. In Wisconsin, there is no automatic emancipation for minors when they reach a certain age.

Instead, a minor can request emancipation through the court system. Here are some key points to consider regarding emancipation in Wisconsin:

Requesting for Emancipation

To initiate the emancipation process, a minor must file a petition with the court. The minor must demonstrate that they have the ability to manage their own affairs and can financially support themselves.

The court will review the petition and make a determination based on the best interests of the minor.

Legal Source of Income

One of the primary factors the court considers in an emancipation petition is the minor’s ability to maintain a legal source of income. The minor must demonstrate that they can support themselves financially and meet their basic needs without relying on their parents or government assistance.

Independent Living

Emancipation is typically granted to minors who can demonstrate that they can live independently. This includes having a stable place to live, being able to manage their own expenses, and making responsible decisions about their well-being.


Child support is a fundamental responsibility that parents have towards their children, and non-payment can have severe consequences. In Wisconsin, enforcement measures such as income withholding, administrative liens, license suspension, asset seizure, and credit bureau reporting are used to ensure compliance.

Understanding the difference between contempt of court and criminal nonsupport charges is crucial for both custodial and non-custodial parents. Additionally, in Wisconsin, minors can seek emancipation through the court system if they can demonstrate the ability to manage their own affairs and financially support themselves.

Knowing the legal pathway for emancipation and the criteria set by the court is essential for minors considering this option. It is crucial for both parents and children to understand their rights, obligations, and the potential consequences associated with child support non-payment and emancipation in Wisconsin.

Child support non-payment and emancipation laws in Wisconsin are crucial topics that parents and minors need to understand. The consequences of non-payment, such as income withholding, administrative liens, license suspension, asset seizure, and credit bureau reporting, emphasize the importance of meeting child support obligations.

It is crucial to know the difference between contempt of court and criminal nonsupport charges. Additionally, minors can seek emancipation, but they must demonstrate their ability to support themselves financially and live independently.

Understanding these topics ensures compliance, accountability, and the well-being of children. Being informed and proactive in matters of child support and emancipation can lead to better outcomes for all parties involved.

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