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Changing Child Support Rules For Wealthier Parents

Officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration have dropped a debatable proposal to decrease the amount of money wealthy parents pay in child support.

Parents who earn between $300,000 and $500,000 annually would have been required to pay a smaller percentage. This percentage would be of their monthly income in child support than what current law prescribes. This is according to changes proposed by the state Department of Children and Families in 2016 and recently dropped.

The decision to drop the modifications are in response to testimony in spite of the proposal. This proposal took place at a December 2016 hearing on the proposal, according to the DCF.

Under the proposal, a judge would have been in charge of determining what percentage of income would be paid. This percentage would be for child support for parents who earn more than $500,000 annually. The percentage of a parent’s monthly income that’s paid in child support depends on how much money they make annually.

For one child, for example, current law allows courts to require 17 percent of income of $84,000 or less. That amount of money would need to be paid in child support. The percentage gets larger with more children, maxing out at 34 percent for five or more children. If the parent’s income exceeds $150,000 annually, 10 percent of the remaining income amount is to be paid. 20 percent for five or more children would need to be paid in child support by the parent.

The suggested change would have introduced a scale to decrease the percentage of income between $300,000 and $500,000. That would be paid, ranging from 10 percent to 5 percent, respectively, for one child. For five or more children, the scale would range from 20 percent to 10 percent.

The proposal was the outcome of an advisory committee to recommend changes to the DCF. The DCF administers the state’s child-support program, and is similar to legislation Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, presented in 2013 that sought to prohibit judges from using income above $150,000 to calculate payments. This is a debatable and unsuccessful bill co-written by a wealthy, divorced campaign donor.

The bill was at least the second time Kleefisch brought in legislation that aimed at helping others. This would be a multimillionaire businessman and GOP donor Michael Eisenga. It would decrease what he pays in child support: a minimum $15,000 a month for his three children.

It was withdrawn among significant pushback in January 2014. Later that year, DCF convened a committee of lawmakers, county child-support officials, the State Bar of Wisconsin, judges and other child-support and child-placement supporters to draft recommendations for changes.

Unlike Kleefisch’s bill, DCF proposed a sliding scale for wealthy parents that lowers the percentage of their income. Their income becomes lover above $300,000 that is paid in child support as income climbs to $500,000.

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