Wisconsin Child Support Garnishment Limits, Exemptions and Protections

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Wisconsin garnishment laws, like those in all other states, forbid an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of a support order. Aside from protecting an employee subject to a support order, Wisconsin garnishment law also protects the employee’s income by setting maximum garnishment limits. These Wisconsin child support garnishment maximums are non-negotiable and must be followed closely, even when the employee is subject to multiple withholding orders.

Garnishment Limits and Exemptions

To determine the amount of the employee’s income that is protected by withholding limits, a Wisconsin employer must first subtract all legally required deductions from the employee’s gross earnings. Wisconsin follows the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), which limits legally required deductions to federal, state, and local income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, required payments to a state pension fund for public employees, required payments to state unemployment or disability, and any mandatory payments made under the Railroad Retirement Act. The amount left after this is considered the employee’s “disposable earnings.” These disposable earnings are then subject to the maximum withholding limits under the CCPA, which are as follows:

  • 50% if the employee supports another family;
  • 55% if the employee supports another family and owes more than twelve weeks in back payments for support;
  • 60% if the employee does not support another family; and
  • 65% if the employee does not support another family or owe more than twelve weeks in back payments for support.

Allocation and Priority

Even if an employer receives two or more support orders for the same employee, the employer should never deduct more than the applicable maximum withholding amount. In cases where more than one support order attaches to one employee, the employer should allocate payment for the current support on the orders first. If there are not enough allowable disposable earnings to make all current support payments, the employer should base payment on the ratio that each payment holds of the allowable disposable earnings. Any remaining funds should be applied to arrearages.

When an employee is assigned another type of state-issued withholding order in addition to a support order, the employer should withhold for the support order first. This is also true when an employee is assigned a Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment order that was issued on or after October 17, 2005. Support orders always take priority, even when the other order pre-existed the support order.

But there is one exception to this rule – the case of an IRS levy on an employee’s wages. If the employer receives an IRS-issued levy for an employee subject to a support order, they must prioritize the levy payment first. The IRS may agree to accommodate the support payment if the employee does not have enough allowable disposable earnings to make both payments. In this situation, the employer should contact the court or agency that issued the support order to inform them of the levy. It’s also a good idea to get in writing any IRS agreement to accommodate.

Protection from Discrimination

Wisconsin law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee or refusing to hire a prospective employee on the basis of a support order. If an employer discriminates on this basis, they may be liable to the employee for compensatory damages, including reinstatement and back pay. The employer also may be required to pay a civil fine of up to $500.

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