Divorce Law for Support of Stepchild in Wisconsin

By Heather Frances J.D.

In Wisconsin, parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children, and this obligation continues after parents divorce. When ex-spouses remarry, the new step-parent has no legal responsibility to support the children of his new spouse, so step-parents are not obligated to pay child support for their step-children.

Calculating Child Support

Wisconsin bases child support on a set percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. Income includes wages, interest, tips, bonuses, unemployment payments and other forms of money, property and services. Depending on the size of the family, the amount of support a noncustodial parent may pay varies from 17 percent for one child to 34 percent for five or more children. Courts make special arrangements when the children supported are from more than one family.


In Wisconsin, either parent can ask the court to modify a child support order if there is a substantial change in the family’s circumstances, such as a significant increase or decrease in the noncustodial parent’s income. Typically, requests for child support modifications may be filed in the court that issued the original child support order. However, parents may also apply for modifications through their local county Child Support Agency.

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Step-Parent Income

Though a step-parent is not required to provide financial support for his step-children, his income may affect the amount of child support his spouse must pay. When the noncustodial parent has more income available to pay child support, perhaps because her new spouse owns a house mortgage-free, the court can adjust the amount of child support the noncustodial parent pays. The court can also impute income to the noncustodial parent, so if the noncustodial parent quits working to live on her new spouse’s income, the court may order her to pay child support even though she does not actually earn any money.

Step-Parent Adoption

If a Wisconsin parent terminates his parental rights because a step-parent wants to adopt his child, his child support obligation ends and the step-parent assumes the legal obligation to financially support the child. The noncustodial parent no longer has custody rights or a support obligation. As a result, if the step-parent and custodial parent later divorce, the court may require the step-parent to pay child support under Wisconsin guidelines.

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