As a family law attorney, I find that many parents pay/receive an inappropriate amount of post-judgment support. This situation often results from a misunderstanding of the legal rules that allow parents to modify these obligations when appropriate. In Wisconsin, child support and in most cases spousal support (a/k/a maintenance/alimony) is modifiable based on a substantial change in circumstances from the time of the previous order. The question then becomes: how does a parent know if the other parent, with whom they do not have day-to-day contact or access to finances, has experienced such a change? Fortunately, Wisconsin law provides for an annual exchange of “financial information,” so both parents can determine if there has been a change that may entitle them to revise support. This exchange ensures that the support paid is fair to both parties and the children.
Unfortunately, there are occasionally instances when a parent refuses to share current financial information. In those cases, the requesting parent can ask the court to force disclosure. Parents should not be discouraged by having to seek court assistance. Doing so is often a fairly quick and inexpensive process, and is just as often resolved out of court. Either way, disclosure and modification goes a long way toward ensuring a fair support award, or at least peace of mind that the current level of support is accurate.
This time of year is usually the best period to exchange this information, since most people have just filed their taxes. The financial information is reasonably current, and readily available. I encourage parents who have questions about their current support payments to contact me.