Custody, Placement & Child Support

Legal custody and physical placement are the most important decisions to make about your child. Legal custody determines how major decisions involving your child’s school, health, religion, and the like will be made. Physical placement determines how much time each parent will spend with the child and where the child will live. It addresses other important issues, including who will be responsible for transporting the child between parents and how much holiday and vacation time you will spend with your child. Our Madison, Wisconsin family law attorneys will work closely with you to create a parenting plan that works best for your lifestyle and is in the best interests of your child.


Custody and placement disputes do not end the moment you walk out of the courtroom. These orders remain in place until your child turns 18. Decisions made early on in your child’s life may not be practical based on changed circumstances. When this happens, some parents stop following the current court order which can lead to more confusion and conflict. We handle all aspects of post-judgment enforcement and modification. That way you can resolve these issues and continue moving forward with your life.


A parent’s plan to relocate can make the current placement arrangement impractical. This is especially true if the move will be a great distance from the other parent. Relocation can be messy and requires a complete overhaul of the placement schedule. It could possibly mean a change in the primary placement parent. In these instances, the parent desiring to move must provide advance notice to the other parent. The parent may even need court permission before a child will be permitted to move, if the other parent objects to the move. The timing of the notice and objection can be crucial in determining whether a relocation can proceed. If you are contemplating a relocation, or opposing a relocation, contact a family law attorney immediately to preserve your legal rights.

Child Support:

Under Wisconsin law, parents are required to provide financial support for their children. A formula is used to calculate child support that takes into account the placement schedule and income levels of the parents. Although this formula is fairly straight-forward, there are many factors that can complicate the calculation.  In some cases, deviating from this formula may be fair or necessary based on the financial resources of the parties or the needs of the child. Additionally, determining a parent’s income level for purposes of calculating support is not always easy, especially if a parent is self-employed, unemployed, or is not working to his or her full potential to avoid a support obligation.

Child Support FAQ

Q: Do I have to pay child support if we have 50/50 placement of the children?

A: When both parents have at least 25% placement (92 overnights in a year), the “shared-placement” formula applies. The “shared-placement” formula considers the gross (pre-tax) income of both parents and the number of overnights each parent has placement of the children during the year, and offsets them against one another. Therefore, even if parents have equal placement, the parent who earns more money will have to pay child support to the lesser-earning parent under the formula. An attorney can assist in determining whether it may be possible to deviate from the formula.

Q: How is child support calculated if one parent has less than 25% placement?

A: If a parent has less than 25% placement, child support is calculated using the “percentage standard”. Under the “percentage standard,” the parent with less placement pays a straight percentage of their gross income as child support. The percentage ranges depending on how many children there are:  17% for one child; 25% for two children; 29% for three children; 31% for four children; and 34% for five or more children. This amount might be reduced slightly if the payor earns more than $84,000 or less than $18,000 per year.

Q: Do I have to continue paying support after my child turns 18? 

A: Child support ends when the child turns 18, unless the child is still in high school or is pursuing a GED. If a child is still in high school or pursuing a GED, child support continues until the child obtains the diploma. However, child support will not continue beyond the child’s 19th birthday. So if a child turns 18 during his or her senior year of high school, the obligation to pay child support will not end until graduation.

Q: How is child support calculated if the other parent is not employed or not making as much as they could?

A: In some circumstances, the court will “impute” or allocate income to someone even if they are not actually earning that amount. The amount of income to impute may be based on the person’s earning capacity. Earning capacity is determined using a variety of factors. These include their prior earnings, education and training, experience, health and the job market. However, courts typically do not impute income to someone unless their current employment situation was voluntary and unreasonable.

Q: If I am already paying child support, do I also have to pay for daycare?

A: Possibly. Child support is only meant to help the other parent pay for the child’s “basic support costs,” which means food, shelter, clothing, transportation, personal care, and incidental recreational costs. The other costs of raising a child (including daycare, tuition and extracurricular activities) are referred to as “variable costs”. These costs are not meant to be paid out of child support. If a parent has less than 25% placement, that parent is not responsible for paying any variable costs. The reason is that this parent is already paying a higher level of child support under the percentage standard. If the parents have shared placement, where each parent has more than 25% placement, variable costs are typically split in proportion to the placement schedule.  The court order will specify how variable costs are to be split between the parents.

Q: If I am getting remarried, will my new spouse’s income be used to pay child support?

A: A step-parent’s income will not be factored into the child support formula, except under special circumstances. For example, if Parent A doesn’t have to work because Parent A’s new spouse provides all financial support for Parent A, the new spouse’s income could be considered in the child support calculation between Parent A and Parent B.

Contact an Axley attorney to find out what your child support obligation would be. We can also help determine whether there might be a reason to deviate from the formula.


Custody, Placement & Child Support Attorneys

Client Successes

Contentious Divorce Case
Successfully settled contentious divorce case with a difficult pro se party, involving all issues of custody, placement, child support, property division and maintenance
Long Distance Placement Modification
Won a post-judgment motion to relocate a child across the country based on client’s concerns that child’s emotional and educational needs were not currently being met.
Long Distance Placement Modification
Won a post-judgment motion to relocate a child across the country based on client’s concerns that child’s educational needs were not currently being met.

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