How do I use SSI benefits to calculate child support?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

My ex-wife and I are changing custody of our one minor child. She currently pays me child support and I will now be paying her in the future.

I have a adult son that is 22 and disabled. He does receive SSI benefits, but I still provide over half of his expenses. Can this be used to calculate my child support for my minor child?


In determining child support, the court typically applies the percentage standards promulgated by the Department of Children and Families.  You do not indicate the new placement schedule, other than the obligation switching as a result.

The standard child support order for one child is 17% of a parent’s gross income if that parent has placement less than 25% of the time, specifically less than 92 overnights per year.  DCF § 150.03 (1).  Different calculations can be done for shared placement or for a payer with a “serial” family.

If the parents have a shared placement schedule, the court utilizes a shared placement formula, which follows.  DCF § 150.04 (2).  The shared-placement formula assumes that both parents assume the child’s basic support costs in proportion to the time that the parent has placement of the child.

  1. Each parent’s gross monthly income is multiplied by the appropriate percentage standard, 17% for one child.
  2. Each amount is then multiplied by 150% to account for household maintenance expenditures duplicated by both parents such as a bedroom, clothes, and personal items.
  3. Then each amount is multiplied by the proportion of the time that the child spends with the other parent to determine each parent’s child support obligation (If placement is equal, each side is multiplied by 50%.  If placement is 60% with mother and 40% with father, then multiply father’s amount by 60% and mother’s by 40%).
  4. Offset the resulting amounts against each other.  The parent with a greater child support obligation is the payer.

If the paying parent is has an existing legal obligation for child support, and is now incurring an additional legal obligation for child support in a subsequent family as a result of a court order, the court terms the payer a “serial family payer.”  The court then utilizes the serial family formula.  DCF § 150.04 (1).  This formula adjusts the gross income that is used in setting the new support order.

In your case, your gross monthly income would first be reduced by 17% to account for the support you pay for your son (although the actual amount is likely very different), and then that reduced amount would be multiplied by 17% again to determine your support obligation for your daughter.  The issue would be whether you have a legal obligation to continue to support your son, and if the court will recognize and commend you for your continuing support, even if it is not a legal obligation.

Even if the court finds that you are not a serial family payer, it may find it appropriate to deviate from the percentage standards in your case.  This is rarely granted, and when it is, it is usually because of the needs of the child.  However, because it will be protecting the needs of another child, it may be considered in your case.

As you recognized, you should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Wisconsin.  Cordell & Cordell has attorneys that are licensed and located in Wisconsin, and we would be happy to discuss your case with you.


Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

 Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.

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