Terese J. Singer

Wisconsin Court Addresses Claim for Child Support Arrears

After an initial order for child support is made, the obligation falls on the parties to ensure that any necessary child support payments are made on a monthly basis. When a party falls behind on child support payments, this is known as arrears. The party who is entitled to receive the outstanding child support can attempt to recover these arrears by negotiating payment with the party who is not yet paying, or, if not successful, they can file a motion with the court to recover the outstanding amounts, as well as penalties such as interest and attorneys’ fees.

In In Re The Marriage Of : Connie M. Weiland v. John D. Weiland, Mr. and Mrs. Weiland divorced in 1998 after several years of marriage. As part of their divorce, Mr. Weiland was ordered to pay child support to Ms. Weiland as well as to split uninsured medical expenses with her. Mr. Weiland’s employer was supposed to calculate and take child support out of Mr. Weiland’s paycheck, but at times the employer failed to withdraw the correct amount.

For unexplained reasons, Ms. Weiland waited until 2013 to raise unreimbursed medical expenses with the court, and only in 2015 did she file a contempt motion with the court, alleging that Mr. Weiland had not paid certain medical expenses and child support. The overall amount owed was approximately $9,000. Mr. Weiland had previously paid $355,000 in child support.

After reviewing Ms. Weiland’s motion, the court awarded her the outstanding child support and instructed Mr. Weiland to pay it within one month or pay interest on the amounts. Despite this outcome, Ms. Weiland appealed.

On appeal, Ms. Weiland argued that the court incorrectly calculated the amounts that she was owed for child support because it considered only his social security wages rather than the gross earnings found on Mr. Weiland’s pay stubs. She argued that social security earnings were not the proper earnings to be considered under Wisconsin’s statutes, but she was unable to provide any legal authority to support these arguments. Since the lower court had previously determined that the calculation of Mr. Weiland’s income was correct, the appeals court held that it could not overturn this outcome simply because Ms. Weiland argued the calculations were inaccurate.

Ms. Weiland also argued that the lower court did not have the authority to hold off on requiring Mr. Weiland to pay interest on outstanding payments unless and until he was unable to pay any outstanding amounts within one month of the new court order. Ms. Weiland argued that interest should be calculated from the time when Mr. Weiland began to fail to make complete payments, which was many years before.

In response, Mr. Weiland argued that Ms. Weiland was equitably estopped from bringing her claims for long overdue interest because she chose not to raise those claims for many years, while accepting child support payments. Mr. Weiland argued that when Ms. Weiland accepted the checks from him, he thought the amounts were correct, and it was only fair that he not be charged interest for that long period of time.

The Court of Appeals ultimately agreed. It found that Ms. Weiland failed to make any substantial argument to refute Mr. Weiland’s equitable estoppel claim and that Ms. Weiland could have brought her claims for arrears at a much earlier time than she did. Accordingly, the court again upheld the lower court’s decisions.

In total, the Court of Appeals rejected Ms. Weiland’s appeals and upheld the lower court’s order against Mr. Weiland, requiring him to pay substantial sums back to Ms. Weiland for the long overdue amounts.

If you believe that you are entitled to outstanding child support amounts, it is important to raise these issues with your former spouse or the court as soon as possible. Waiting a long period of time only raises complications for obtaining the right documentation, proving your claim, and convincing the court to award you the money you are seeking.

At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee child support attorney can help you promptly address outstanding child support issues and help you work to pursue the money that you deserve. To speak with a knowledgeable divorce lawyer today, do not hesitate to contact the law offices of Reddin & Singer, LLP online or give us a call at 414-271-6400.

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