How much will my child support obligation decrease if I’m unemployed?

Divorce Attorney Angela FoyQuestion:

I pay child support and currently my only income is unemployment benefits.

What proof does the court need to modify my child support payments to reflect my unemployment status? How much will my child support obligation decrease?



In Wisconsin, child support is always modifiable. The party requesting a modification must file a motion unless the other party is in agreement with the change.

The motion must allege facts for the court to find that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the last order was issued. The court presumes that circumstances have changed after 33 months.

Filing a motion is the first step, but filing alone does not change your child support amount. After the motion is filed, you must appear at the hearing to prove the change in circumstances and request the change. You former spouse will also have the opportunity to appear and possibly object to any change.

The new order will continue to be in effect until it is changed by a new court order. The earliest that the court can go back and adjust support is the date that you file the motion and provide notice to your former spouse, so it is best to file quickly.

At any time, if you and your former spouse agree to the new amount, you can submit a written stipulation, which the court would adopt in its order.

In terms of what your new amount will be, it depends on your income, which is currently your unemployment, and your placement arrangement with your children. The court will also likely want to know the circumstances surrounding your unemployment to determine if your current circumstances are both involuntary and reasonable.

The Department of Children and Families has promulgated percentage guidelines. The courts are required to follow these guidelines in issuing an order, or state the reason for deviating from the guidelines. The guidelines are tailored to meet specific circumstances that may apply, depending on the facts of your case.

In general, if that parent has placement less than 25% of the time, specifically less than 92 overnights per year, that parent will pay a percentage of his or her gross income to the other parent. That percentage is: 17% for 1 child, 25% for 2 children, 29% for 3 children, 31% for 4 children, and 34% for 5 or more children.

You should contact an attorney who is licensed in your state to further discuss the specifics of your situation. Cordell & Cordell does represent clients nationwide. Thank you for submitting your question.


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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