On May 11, 2021, Senate Bill 105 was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. SB 105 was signed by Gov. Evers on May 21 and published May 22, and is now designated Act 35.
This new Act 35 directly amends and retitles DCF 150 to restructure it so that the shared placement formula appears as the primary method of calculating support. Act 35 significantly restructures DCF 150. However, there are no substantive changes to the rule. In short, the ways to calculate support remain the same for practitioners and the courts.
Federal law requires each state to implement child support guidelines,1 and each state determines the formula or model to use for setting child support.2 Wisconsin’s child support guidelines are found in DCF 150. The current child support model used in Wisconsin is the percentage of income model, which looks only at the income of the noncustodial parent (while presuming that the other parent is sharing a comparable percentage of their income with the children).
The changes in Act 35 make Wisconsin’s child support guidelines appear more like an income shares model. An income shares model of support means that the calculation of support evaluates and considers the incomes of both parents. Because the income shares model is perceived as fairer than a percentage of income model, this change may create a greater perception of fairness in Wisconsin’s child support guidelines without requiring the adoption of a new model.
Some of the changes to DCF 150 include:
retitling DCF 150 from “Child Support Percentage of Income Standard” to “Child Support Standard;”
creating a new definition: “designated percentage.” It is defined as “the applicable percentage of a parent's monthly income available for child support or adjusted monthly income available for child support under DCF 150.035(2) or 150.04(4) or (5);”
moving the shared placement formula out of DCF 150.04 (“Determining child support in special circumstances”) and placing it in a new section, DCF 150.035 (“Determining the child support obligation”), before all other calculations; and
adding language to the rule directly stating that designated percentages used in primary placement cases apply only if the conditions for the shared placement formula do not apply.
As for new family support orders, Wis. Stat. chapter 767 is amended in several sections to eliminate the option of new family support orders, while leaving existing family support orders alone. For family practitioners, this should come as no surprise, as there is no longer any tax benefit to either party in establishing a family support order as opposed to establishing separate child support and maintenance orders.
The effective date for the changes to family support orders is the day after publication, while the changes to DCF 150 will take effect on Dec. 1, 2021. Please use this six-month delay to familiarize yourself with the reorganized rule.
More information about the coming changes to DCF 150 are available from Jill Mueller at (608) 422-7046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration for the 40th annual Family Law Workshop is now open! The workshop will be held virtually on Aug. 5-6, 2021. For more information and full details, see the Family Law Workshop on WisBar.org's Marketplace.
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Family Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Family Law Section webpages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.
1 42 U.S.C. § 667.
2 Percentage of Income model, Income Shares model, or Melson Formula.