How Is Child Support Determined When Parents Are Unmarried?

 Posted on January 02, 2024 in Family Law

Blog ImageDuring the divorce process, a couple who has children together will need to resolve a variety of concerns related to child custody. In addition to determining where children will live, when they will spend time with each parent, and how the parents will work together to make decisions about how their children will be raised, it will also be necessary to establish child support orders. These orders will ensure that both parents are contributing financially toward their children’s needs. In cases where a couple that is not married has children, many of the same considerations will need to be addressed, and it will be important to understand how child support will be determined

Issues related to child support can be complex and challenging to address when parents are not married and are no longer in a relationship with each other. However, as is true in all family law cases, the best interest of the child will be the top priority for the court. It is crucial for unmarried parents to understand how child support will be calculated and what unique factors may arise in these situations. An experienced attorney can help ensure that these issues will be addressed correctly.

Legal Rights and Obligations

Unmarried parents generally have the same rights and obligations concerning their children as they would if they were married. When parents share legal custody, they will both have the right to participate in important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious practices. However, if one parent has been primarily responsible for addressing these issues, they may have sole legal custody of the child or children, giving them the right to make decisions without consulting the other parent. Both parents will also have the right to spend reasonable amounts of time with the children on an ongoing basis, and both parents will have the responsibility to financially support their child.

The Role of Paternity

To ensure that the rights of both parents will be respected and to establish the obligation to pay child support, it may be necessary to establish paternity for a child. If parents were unmarried when their child was born, the biological father may not be recognized as the child’s legal parent. By taking steps to establish legal paternity, both parents can ensure that their rights and responsibilities will be recognized by law. Parents may agree to acknowledge paternity, or if there are any disputes, a court may order genetic testing to confirm the identity of the child’s father. Once paternity is established, child custody and child support orders may be put in place by the court.

Child Support Guidelines

The state of Wisconsin has established guidelines that are used to calculate child support obligations in divorce and family law cases. Under these guidelines, the gross income of the parent who will be paying support is multiplied by a specific percentage that is based on the number of children being supported. In “shared placement” cases where children live with each parent for at least 25 percent of the year, child support obligations will be determined for both parents, and they will then be offset based on the amount of time the child will spend with each parent. This ensures that the costs of raising children will be divided between the parents appropriately.

Family courts will generally follow the child support guidelines unless there are extenuating circumstances that warrant deviation from them. Factors that may lead to deviation include special needs of the child or significant financial hardship faced by one of the parents.

Modification and Enforcement

Circumstances can change over time, and these changes may require modifications to existing child support orders. For example, if a parent’s income increases significantly or decreases due to the loss of a job, a modification may be necessary. Modifications to child custody arrangements, such as a new schedule in which children will spend more time with one parent, may also require updates to child support calculations.

If a parent fails to fulfill their financial obligations outlined in a child support order, the other parent may need to take action to enforce these orders and collect the support that is owed. There are a variety of options that may be available, including wage garnishment, property liens, interception of tax refunds, or even civil contempt charges against the non-compliant parent. An experienced attorney can provide guidance on how to enforce child support obligations while ensuring that the children’s best interests are protected.

Contact Our Milwaukee, WI Child Support Attorneys

If you are not married to your child’s other parent, and you have questions or concerns about child support or other family law issues, the attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP are here to help. Our Milwaukee child support lawyers can provide you with effective legal representation as you work to establish arrangements that will provide for your child’s needs. Contact us today at 414-271-1440 to set up a free consultation.