Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Questions Parents ask about Setting Child Support

Why are the guidelines based on gross income and not net income?

Gross income is a more accurate reflection of income. Net income may be manipulated through the use of exemptions and deductions.

What is the Percentage Standard?

The Percentage of Income Standard provides guidelines to Wisconsin courts for setting child support and medical support. The guidelines are based on the parent's income, the time a child spends with each parent, and whether a parent is supporting other children.

How were the guidelines in the Percentage Standard chosen?

Wisconsin's guidelines are based on a study that shows the amount of income parents use to raise their children. The guidelines assume that when parents are living apart, both parents will continue to spend part of their income on their children. The guidelines are based on the principle that a child's standard of living should not be negatively affected because his or her parents are not living together.

Do courts use the Percentage Standard when setting family support orders?

Family support orders combine child support and spousal maintenance. The family support amount determined under the Percentage Standard should be increased by the amount necessary to provide a net family support payment, after taxes are paid, of at least the amount of the child support set by the guidelines.

Do courts have to use the guidelines in the Percentage of Income Standard?

A court may order a parent to pay more or less than the amounts set by the Percentage of Income Standard if the court decides that the Income Standard would be unfair to the child or one of the parents. The court must note the reason for not using the guidelines.