It's interesting to look at the changes to family law that individual state governments and lawmakers are considering -- and sometimes succeeding at enacting. In Wisconsin, a controversial proposal by the state's Department of Children and Families (DCF) involving child support has been dropped amid considerable pushback -- but not after years of effort to reduce the child support burden for wealthy parents.
Current vs. Proposed Child Support Calculations
Current Wisconsin law allows courts to require parents of one child to pay child support totaling 17 percent of their income. That amount increases with each child, with a maximum of 34 percent if a parent has five or more children.
The proposed change would have set lower percentages for people earning more than $300,000 per year. The calculations would be made on a sliding scale for those earning in the $300,000 to $500,000 range. People with incomes of $500,000 would have been required to pay just 5 percent for one child and 10 percent for five or more children. When a parent had an annual income over $500,000, a judge could determine the percentage of child support to be paid.
An Earlier Attempt Led by a Political Donor
A piece of legislation similar to the DCF proposal was introduced back in 2013 by a Republican state lawmaker. The bill was co-written by a wealthy businessman and Republican donor who was incentivized by the minimum of $15,000 in child support he was required to pay for his three children. That bill would have prevented judges from calculating child support payments based on income for anyone who earned more than $150,000 per year. That bill was withdrawn early the following year after considerable controversy.
However, DCF later convened an advisory committee of attorneys, lawmakers, judges and child support officials to recommend changes to the child support laws. The proposal from that committee included the sliding scale for parents with incomes between $300,000 and $500,000.
Now the DCF and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have decided not to pursue the proposal that would have allowed very wealthy people to be able to pay a smaller percentage of their income to take care of their children than those with less money.
It's generally best when divorcing couples, along with their attorneys, can work out a child support agreement without having to get a judge involved. However, if you're unable to reach such an agreement, it's essential to know what the laws of your state are and to work with your family law attorney to seek a child support order that is fair for your child.
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