Changing the amount of an established child support order is called an adjustment or modification of child support. The amount of child support may increase, decrease, or stay the same but instead it will add medical support or other variable expenses to the existing order. Either party subject to the order may bring an action for modification.
In Wisconsin, either party is able to modify the support order whenever there has been a substantial change in financial circumstances. These circumstances generally include changes in the amount of time the child spends with each parent, or decreases or increases in either parent’s income. A change in circumstance is presumed after more than 33 months have passed since the order was established. This presumption can be, “rebutted,” or overcome if the other party shows that even though 33 months have passed no substantial changes such as increase or decreases in income or in the parent’s placement time have occurred.
After a review of the order, the court may decide that no change is necessary if the order conforms to the child support guidelines, provides for medical support or if the changed amount would be less than 15% of the current order and the difference is less than $50 a month. If these circumstances do not apply, the child support order may or may not be changed depending upon the specific circumstances.
There are four ways an order can be changed. First, if the child support agency finds that a change is necessary it may draft an agreement and ask both parents to sign it. The agreement will take effect after the court approves it. Second, if both parents agree to the changed amount of child support they may file a Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment for Support/Maintenance/Custody/Placement, which can be found online at the Office of State Court’s website. This form will need to be filed with the court for approval before it takes effect. If the custodial parent receives services from the child support agency, it must also approve the terms of the stipulation before the court is able to approve the stipulation. Third, if one parent does not agree to the change, the child support agency may ask the court to change the order. Fourth, if the court performs a review of the order, initiated by one of the parents, the court will decide whether or not a change is warranted.
It is important to remember that only the court can change an established child support order. The child support agency or the parents can agree to a new stipulation regarding child support, but the order does not take legal effect until the court approves and signs the new agreed upon stipulation.
Attorney Samantha A. Hargrave and Attorney Lisa R. Burns