A lawmaker in Wisconsin who recently proposed a new bill to reduce child support payments for wealthy individuals has withdrawn his bill after receiving much criticism. Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc received national attention recently with a proposed bill that would exempt income over $150,000 for child support calculations if the parent earned more than that annually. Many felt that this was just a way to allow the wealthy to avoid paying for their children.
The bill also included the following:
- Shared child custody would be mandatory except in cases where there was a "clear and convincing" reason that it would not be in the child's best interest
- Child-support payments would be determined based on a formula rather than a judge's discretion
- The formula for calculating child support would include deductions for healthcare costs and making income over $150,000 a year exempt
- A judge would increase or decrease payments based on the formula and only if there was a significant change in a spouses income
- Child support agreements currently in place would be reduced if they went over the formula limits by 10% or more
Criticism for the bill grew mainly because many felt that there was no need for change to the child support calculations but, rather, the bill was being proposed as a personal favor after campaign contributor and former mayor Michael Eisenga requested that he would like to pay less child support to his ex-wife and three children. Eisenga recently lost his appeal to family court to have his monthly child support payment reduced from $15,000 to $4,109 per month. He stated that his income had been reduced in recent years.
In the midst of this controversy, it was found that Eisenga was a big contributor to both representative Kleefisch and his wife. Eisenga contributed $3500 to the representative's campaign and $7500 to his wife Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefish since 2005. Perhaps the most incriminating evidence it an email found from Eisenga to a staff member that asks for specific changes be made to the child support bill that would help him lower his payments.
In his defense, Kleefisch said that it is normal for representatives to get advice on Bill policy from citizens. Some, like bill co-sponsor Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake feel that large child support payments are not beneficial to a child. “To me it exposes a situation where child support is being used in a way that was never intended to be used,” Kestell said. “Had I known about this court case, without having any relationship with the people involved, I'd be interested in doing legislation to correct it.”
Kleefisch may decide to reintroduce the bill after making some edits. Likely, this means removing the controversial statements about an income cap. Many people do not feel that there is a need for a change to the current child support system including Eisenga's ex-wife's attorney, Richard Podell.
Podell said Wisconsin's courts have been fair in awarding child support based on the different circumstances of every case.
If reintroduced, it is unclear how popular this bill would be. Most states, like New Hampshire require child support payments to be calculated based on income without exemptions and the number of children.