The Wisconsin Statute of Limitations on Child Support in Arrears

By Beverly Bird

Wisconsin is one of the more aggressive states when it comes to collecting child support. The legislature makes it difficult for a non-custodial parent to avoid paying support and to accrue arrears for an extended period of time. If it happens, however, the Wisconsin Bureau of Child Support works in conjunction with the Division of Workforce Development to take action. If you're owed child support and you're not receiving it, you can contact your county's child support agency or a private attorney, both of whom can enlist the help of the BCS and DWD long before your statute of limitations for enforcement runs out.

Statute of Limitations

Under Wisconsin law, you have 20 years to try to collect past due child support from your ex-spouse. The 20 years begins with the date your youngest child emancipates or reaches the age of majority, not the date of your decree. Therefore, if your youngest child was three at the time the court issued your child support order, you can attempt to enforce the order for about 35 years: from the age of three until majority, then an additional 20 years beyond that.

Collection Measures

Wisconsin does not want you to have to wait 20 years past your youngest child's emancipation to collect the support owed to you. As soon as your ex-spouse is a month or $500 behind – whichever amounts to more arrears – the BCS will list him with the state's support lien docket, and the DWD will place a lien against his property. If his delinquency reaches $1,000 or three months past due, whichever is more, the DWD will use the lien to seize his bank accounts, real or personal property, and even pension payments. It will suspend his professional, recreational and driver's licenses. In cooperation with the federal government, the DWD can also intercept your ex's tax refund.

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Criminal Penalties

If you take your ex-spouse back to family court for enforcement, the court can hold him in contempt and order him to jail for not paying support. The judge will typically set a purge condition first, allowing him to pay a certain percentage to avoid incarceration. It’s also a criminal offense in Wisconsin to knowingly and willfully refuse to pay child support. If you file a complaint against him with your county district attorney, the DA can level these charges after confirming your allegations with the BCS. Refusal to pay for more than 120 days is a Class I felony; up to 120 days is a Class I misdemeanor. The felony charge carries a possible penalty of 42 months in prison, fine up to $10,000, or both. A misdemeanor charge risks the same fine, nine months in jail, or both. These penalties can run consecutively. For example, if your ex is in arrears for 240 days or eight months, this could result in two felony charges for 120 days each, and the penalties are applicable to each charge.

Effect of Emancipation

Wisconsin's age of emancipation is either 18 or 19, depending on whether your child is attending school with the goal of achieving a high school diploma at the time of his eighteenth birthday. If he is, support continues to be payable until his nineteenth birthday. The emancipation of each of your children terminates your ex-spouse's current child support obligation for that child, so current payments won't continue to accrue past this date. However, Wisconsin charges interest on child support arrears, payable to the custodial parent when the state collects. Interest on your ex's arrears will therefore continue to add to the balance until he pays them, or until the 20-year statute of limitations expires. Wisconsin charges child support interest at the rate of one percent a month, or 12 percent a year.

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Child Support Laws on Back Payments in Michigan

References

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Punishment for Not Paying Child Support in the State of Nevada

In Nevada, the amount of child support you have to pay is set by state guidelines based upon a percentage of your gross monthly income. The amount starts at 18 percent for one child if your ex-spouse has primary custody. This can be a hefty amount, especially if you are paying for more than one child. For example, if you have four children, you could be required to pay as much as 31 percent of your gross income. And, if you don’t pay child support as ordered, you can be punished financially, administratively and even criminally.

Nevada Law on the Emancipation of a Minor Child

The age of majority, or the age at which a child legally becomes an adult, is 18 in Nevada. However, teenagers younger than 18 can petition a Nevada court for emancipation, freeing themselves from their parents' authority. When this occurs, they can enter into legally binding contracts and incur debt, just as adults can. However, in some respects, they’re still minors under Nevada law.

Back Child Support Laws and the Kentucky Statute of Limitations

All states take collection of child support seriously, but Kentucky is particularly aggressive about pursuing parents who fall behind. The state is willing to take creative and extreme measures to convince noncustodial parents to catch up with their child support arrears. If an obligor parent doesn't pay, and when his arrears reach a certain point, Kentucky will charge him with a felony crime.

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