Officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration have dropped a controversial proposal to reduce the amount of money wealthy parents pay in child support.
Parents who earn between $300,000 and $500,000 annually would have been required to pay a smaller percentage of their monthly income in child support than what current law prescribes, according to changes proposed by the state Department of Children and Families in 2016 and recently abandoned.
The decision to drop the changes is in response to testimony against the proposal at a December 2016 hearing on the proposal, according to the DCF.
Under the proposal, a judge would have been responsible for determining what percentage of income would be paid in child support for parents who earn more than $500,000 annually. The percentage of a parent’s monthly income that is paid in child support varies according to how much money a parent makes annually.
For one child, for example, current law allows courts to require 17 percent of income of $84,000 or less to be paid in child support. The percentage increases with more children, maxing out at 34 percent for five or more children. On the high end, if the parent’s income exceeds $150,000 annually, 10 percent of the remaining income amount is to be paid in child support for one child and 20 percent for five or more children.
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The proposed change would have introduced a sliding scale to reduce the percentage of income between $300,000 and $500,000 that would be paid, ranging from 10 percent to 5 percent, respectively, for one child. For five or more children, the scale ranged from 20 percent to 10 percent.
The proposal was the result of an advisory committee convened to recommend changes to the DCF, which administers the state’s child-support program, and is similar to legislation Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, introduced in 2013 that sought to ban judges from using income above $150,000 to calculate child-support payments — a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful bill co-written by a wealthy, divorced campaign donor.
The bill was at least the second time Kleefisch introduced legislation aimed at helping multimillionaire businessman and GOP donor Michael Eisenga reduce what he pays in child support: a minimum $15,000 a month for his three children.
It was withdrawn amid significant pushback in January 2014. Later that year, DCF convened a committee of lawmakers, county child-support officials, the State Bar of Wisconsin, judges and other child-support and child-placement advocates to draft recommendations for changes.
Unlike Kleefisch’s bill, DCF proposed a sliding scale for wealthy parents that reduces the percentage of their income above $300,000 that is paid in child support as the income climbs to $500,000.