How are Child Custody and Support Decided in the Wisconsin Courts?

Categories: child custody

Family Law

When going through a divorce involving children, it is important to set realistic expectations early in the process. Whether you expect your divorce to end up in court (which is not as common as you might think) or you believe that you and your spouse will be able to resolve your differences amicably, it is important to understand how the Wisconsin courts address matters of child custody and support.


This is because, to a greater extent than the other primary issues involved in most divorces (namely, distribution of property and maintenance), child custody and support determinations are governed by statute. However, this does not mean that there are strict, hard-and-fast rules for determining parents’ post-divorce obligations (or that there are no legal restrictions when it comes to negotiating property distribution and maintenance). Rather, what it means is that when it comes to child-related matters, the Wisconsin legislature has enacted certain guidelines that are designed to protect the best interests of the children involved. Since divorce settlement agreements are subject to court approval, it is important to understand how the courts apply these guidelines even if you intend to resolve your divorce without resorting to litigation.

Establishing Child Custody Rights in Wisconsin

As we alluded to above, when it comes to child custody matters, the Wisconsin courts focus on protecting the best interests of the child. This “best interests” standard takes into consideration a number of different factors, and these factors can weigh in differently depending on the unique facts and circumstances involved. Some of the key factors include:

  • Each parent’s availability to care for the child
  • Each parent’s wishes regarding parenting rights
  • The child’s educational and healthcare needs
  • The child’s wishes
  • The parents’ ability to support one another’s relationship with their children

Visit our child custody page to view a more comprehensive list of the factors that the Wisconsin courts consider when awarding custody in the context of a divorce.

Determining Who Pays Child Support (and How Much)

When it comes to calculating child support, the Wisconsin courts apply a statutory “percentage of income” formula that takes into account each parent’s:

  • Placement rights
  • Income
  • Pre-existing child support obligations

Under Wisconsin law, there are actually a number of different formulas that the courts will apply depending on the parents’ financial circumstances. In addition, there are a number of exceptions that can apply, and the Wisconsin courts will often consider a number of other factors (such as maintenance obligations and tax consequences), as well. As a result, calculating an enforceable child support award in your divorce requires a clear understanding not only of your and your spouse’s respective financial conditions and placement rights, but of Wisconsin’s child support laws, as well.

Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.

Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.

Speak with a Family Law Attorney at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C.

If you have questions about securing child custody rights or calculating child support payments in connection with a Wisconsin divorce, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys, please call (715) 842-2291 or contact us online today.