Delinquent Child Support in Wisconsin: Making Everyone Whole

Child support payments are a sensitive issue, but they are about the best interests of the child. Regardless of whether there may be personal animosity between the parents and regardless of their individual financial circumstances, a child must be given the resources to survive and thrive.  

Whether you are the custodial parent who is having a difficult time getting your money, or the conscientious, non-custodial parent who may be struggling financially, here is a general overview of how child support enforcement in Wisconsin works and what your options may be.  

What if I Can’t Collect Child Support? 

If you are the custodial parent and not getting your money in a timely manner (or at all), you have an ally in the State of Wisconsin. Child support payments are court-ordered. Therefore, a refusal to pay places one in contempt of court. And the enforcement mechanisms begin to be automatically triggered after one month. Measures such as… 

  • Liens placed on any property and cars owned by the non-custodial parent 

  • Any government benefits the non-custodial parent is receiving can be terminated 

  • Credit bureaus are immediately notified of the payment delinquency 

If the situation does not change, the delinquent parent may be further subjected to revocation of any professional and recreational licenses (e.g., hunting and fishing), the denial of a passport, the seizure of bank accounts and wage garnishment of up to 50 percent of their income.  

What if I Can’t Pay Child Support?  

Perhaps you’re the non-custodial parent and were recently laid off. You’re devastated at the situation, but you can’t send money you don’t have. Is there anything that can be done?  

Taking any action without the cooperation of the custodial parent will be difficult. Wisconsin law requires both parents to support the child until the age of 18 (or 19 if the child is still in high school or working towards a GED).  

Furthermore, even if the custodial parent does agree to accept a lower sum than they are entitled to, a court may view the agreement with skepticism. There are too many bad reasons that custodial parents might relinquish their rights to what they are owed.  

A judge may be concerned that the relinquishing is done due to threats made. Or perhaps the custodial parent has a history of unrealistic expectations about the person they are attracted too. A conscientious judge will not allow the child to suffer financially for any of these reasons.  

Having said that...Dane County still offers parents the option to file a Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment For Support. The reasons for the requested change can be formally outlined before the court.  

Reasons such as the loss of a job or an increase in the child’s needs (i.e., a medical condition) are easily documented and can alleviate the types of concerns noted above.  

Any support modification that is approved is likely to follow the guidelines of the previous plan, based on the percentage of income that the non-custodial parent earns. Wisconsin typically follows the following guidelines:

  • 17 percent of gross income for one child 

  • 25 percent of gross income for two children 

  • 29 percent of gross income for three children 

  • 31 percent of gross income for four children 

  • 34 percent of gross income for 5-plus children 

What About Money Already Owed?  

The good news is that there are allowances for payment plans. Be aware that interest will be owed. Per Wisconsin law, delinquent child support payments accrue interest at 1 percent per month. Furthermore, paying the base amount for each ongoing month is an obligation that must be met, in addition to paying off the delinquent amount  

How Your Lawyer Can Help 

A good family law attorney can do so much more than access all the appropriate forms and paperwork you will need to fill out, regardless of which avenue you are going down. Delinquent child support is a delicate issue that is squarely in the middle of relationships between the parents who have had their own struggles. It’s not hard for these disputes to turn sour. When that happens, no one wins.  

No one wins if the delinquent parent has to be held in contempt and sent to jail, where they are further unable to earn a paycheck. No one wins if the custodial parent quietly accepts less money than they and the child are rightfully entitled to, in a misguided attempt to “keep the peace.” The only way out is a workable solution, produced by experienced and compassionate family law attorneys who understand all the options the state of Wisconsin allows.  

Contact Balisle Family Law Legal Counsel,, either online or at (608) 765-1001 and schedule a consultation.