The Wisconsin Administrative Code pertaining to child support guidelines was updated effective January 1, 2024. The code chapter, specifically Department of Child and Families Chapter 150 (DCF 150), was updated to clarify when and how equivalent care should be applied when calculating child support. Child support is the obligation to support a child financially. Support is calculated by reviewing the payor’s gross income and comparing it to the amount of overnight placement that person has with the child. 

In some instances, a parent would be unable or unavailable to have overnight placement with their child. For example, a parent working third shift would not feasibly be able to have overnight placement. In that case and if a parent provided a certain amount of care during they day, they could be given credit for overnight placement. The purpose is to not penalize a parent for working third shift who provides meaningful care and support for their child but is unable to actually have overnight placement. That is called “Equivalent care”, which contemplated that periods of time a parent has with their child of at least 6 hours and during which a meal is provided could be considered equivalent of an overnight.

Unfortunately, when applying equivalent care credit, courts were giving individuals duplicate credit for overnight placement and placement the day following but did not include an overnight. For example, If an individual had placement Saturday into Sunday, they would receive credit for Saturday overnight placement. Courts would often give that parent credit for an additional overnight if that parent had placement of the child until Sunday at 7:00 under the presumption that the child was provided meals and was with that parent nearly the entire day. The scenario was not consistent with the original intent for equivalent care credit. 

The update to DCF 150 removed the equivalent care definition and clarified its implementation within the code that is consistent with the original intent and purpose for equivalent care. The update specifically states that Duplicate credit, as described above, is not permitted. A parent cannot receive credit for equivalent care during a period that is within 24 hours of an overnight period for which they received a credit, unless the other parent is providing overnight care the night before and after.

Child support calculations and placement arrangements are often among the most contentious issues in family law cases. If you find yourself lost and in need of direction, contact our Family Law Team today!