Terese J. Singer

Wisconsin Court Imputes Monthly Income to Father to Modify Child Support Obligation

In a recent decision, a father appealed from an order affirming the family court commissioner’s decision to impute about $13,400 in monthly income to him so that it could modify his Wisconsin child support obligation. The father appealed, arguing that the income had been imputed to him without enough evidence and that the court had mistakenly frustrated his efforts to give evidence about his and his former spouse’s incomes.

The couple petitioned for a legal separation in 2003. They entered a settlement agreement and the court adjudicated a legal separation. The couple had two minor children. The legal separation judgment was changed into a divorce judgment.

Multiple orders were made about the kids’ physical custody and placement. The state was worried that their basic needs weren’t met without public assistance and tried to modify the child support order. It asked that the lower court decide matters connected to their health care and insurance. The father stipulated to give them health insurance.

In 2014, he moved to modify the placement order and asked the lower court to protect their college funds. The state moved to alter the amount of the child support payments since the father’s income had significantly changed. The issue of child support continued to be litigated and the father’s obligation to pay was suspended for about three months. The mother was supposed to make some nominal child support payments to the father during the suspension period, after which the requirement that he pay would commence at $200 biweekly. The commissioner stated that he was self-employed, making $3700 biweekly and that the woman grossed about $1600 in biweekly salary.

The parents continued to litigate insurance and reimbursement, as well as discovery, about these issues. The mother’s attorney claimed that he’d seen inconsistencies about the father’s income and tried to get documents proving the father’s economic position, given that he owned an auto business, possessed many rental properties worth more than $3 million, had built a fancy home and owned multiple vehicles. The father argued that the mother should only get limited discovery about his assets. The State argued that there was no proof the father was diverting funds that should be used for support toward the purchase of things.

The lower court concluded his tax returns didn’t give enough background information and it decided she was entitled to more disclosure of income-producing property, monthly expenses and income. The court found an error and ordered a modification of the child support payments.

Further hearings were conducted about these matters. The appellate court explained that the father’s arguments were somewhat incoherent. It explained that a court can exercise its discretion to modify child support upon proof that there was a substantial change in circumstances. The lower court is supposed to follow the standard established by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. It is 17% for a child. The court can adjust income based on asset ownership, earning ability and business earnings that haven’t been undistributed. The lower court imputed income based on the documents he’d presented to the court.

For these and other reasons, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order.

At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee child support attorneys can help you seek a modification of child support or fight a requested modification. 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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