Child support: can I get my payments reduced?

I heard there are new rules about how judges will determine how much child support has to be paid. I think that means I will pay less. How can I get my payments reduced?

It is true that the Wisconsin child support guidelines changed as of January 1st, but the new regulations are not sufficient reason to go back to court, according to Johns, Flaherty & Collins attorney Ellen Frantz, whose practice includes family law. There are a number of changes, but the one that will impact more families is the change in the threshold where the incomes of both parents are considered.

"The new rules alone don't give you a reason to modify child support because the standard requirement for a modification is a 'substantial change in circumstances,'" she said.

A substantial change would be considered something like a job loss, a substantial increase or decrease in income or a change in how often a child stays with one parent or another. The new rules do not constitute a substantial change in circumstances.

Perhaps most significant is the new shared-time formula. Under the old rules, child support calculations changed when the parent paying child support had the children for 31 percent or more of the overnights per year. At 41 percent of the overnights, both parents' incomes were considered for the first time.

Under the new rules, both parents' incomes are considered at 25 percent of the overnights. This change is based on the premise that parents have duplicated costs and it is more fair and realistic to look at both incomes when placement reaches 25 percent.

It is hoped that lowering the threshold will decrease arguing over an extra night or two because of the financial impact, rather than considering what's best for the children.

The new rules also give the court discretion to deviate from the percentage in high-income cases and in low-income cases where the payer may have insufficient income to pay court-ordered support.

In addition to substantial changes in circumstances, the new rules will be considered at annual or periodic reviews if required in child support agreements.

"If you do go in for a modification, the new rules will apply," Frantz said.

For more information about family law, contact Ellen Frantz at 608-784-5678

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