Everything you need to know about Mississippi child support laws, updated for 2020.
Mississippi child support laws state that upkeep is awarded voluntarily or via court order.
What does this mean for soon to be divorced parents or kids from a broken marriage or partnership?
Primarily what that statement points at is that parents in the state can make child support agreements out of court. But what guarantee is there that your former partner will honor his/her obligation?
Keep reading to find out.
Why it is vital to establish paternity in Mississippi
Under Mississippi child support laws, parents in the state must pay upkeep until the child is 21. The issue here is. If the ‘father’ signs an acknowledgment of paternity form at the hospital. Then legally, you are a father to the child until he or she reaches the age of majority, joins the US Military, or emancipated.
The importance of establishing paternity early in Mississippi is that it gives the parents access to disability, death, or insurance benefits, and there is less friction between the parents.
Kids benefit in that they receive support from both parents.
In matters of paternity, what to remember is:
- If the father refuses to sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity form, the Division of Field Operations at the DHS (Department of Human Health) can assist.
- Mothers who receive Supplemental National Assistance programs (SNAP), Medicaid, or Assistance for Needy families TANF, do not have to pay the $25 service fee.
- The law allows paternity establishment through voluntary acknowledgment or via court order.
You should also note that paternity can be disestablished under certain circumstances.
How to apply for child support in Mississippi
To apply for child support, call 601-359-4861, or visit the state website.
For this exercise, you will need:
- Proof of residency (utility bill, receipts, and so on)
- Valid identification.
- Birth certificates of the child(ren).
You may also need paternity test results if applicable, divorce records, wage information, and the other parent’s recent whereabouts.
Download the application here, complete it, then mail it back to the Department of Human Services along with the $25 service fee.
How to calculate child support in Mississippi
Courts in Mississippi use the “Percentage of Income Method” in awarding parental obligation. What that means is, during proceedings, the judge will:
- Determine the gross income(s) of both parents. That includes wages, salaries, interests, disability, and all other sources of income.
- From gross income, the judge deducts federal, state, and local taxes, social security contributions, preexisting child support orders, or any other deductions as per Mississippi child support guidelines.
- The judge divides the amount that results by 12 to obtain the monthly adjusted gross income.
From the adjusted gross income, the judge awards child support as a percentage as shown in the table below.
|% of gross income awarded for support||Number of children due support|
Factors considered when awarding child support in Mississippi
To the judge, priority is the “best interests of a child. Hence, the factors that the awarding party must consider are:
- The gross incomes of both parents.
- Seasonal variations in the parent’s incomes.
- The age of the child to whom action is due.
- Available assets of both parents.
- Special needs (parents/child(ren).
Or any other relevant change that yields fair results.
How to change child support orders in Mississippi
Mississippi Child Support Guidelines recognize that the state formula does not always provide a fair amount. Because of that, the law allows parents to petition for changes in their orders.
State law requires that to award child support modification, the petitioning party must demonstrate to the court that “a substantial or ongoing change in financial circumstances” has occurred or is ongoing. A substantial change here refers to a 25% (increase/decrease) change in the adjusted income of a parent.
For example, a disease, incarceration, or any other circumstance, that hinders your capability to provide support to your child.
Additionally. The state notifies parents with IV-D child support of their right to request a review every 3 years. What is IV-D child support?
Generally, there are four main types of child support cases in America, that is:
- IV-D cases: the parent receives assistance from the state’s office of child support enforcement.
- IV-A cases: parents receive public assistance such as TANF.
- IV-E: cases: when someone other than the parent cares for the child.
- Non-IV-D cases: child support is established and maintained privately.
What is important to remember is, non-TANF reviews or modifications are allowed upon written request only. Also, changing your order will not cost you anything.
To begin the modification process, call 601-359-4861 or visit the Office of Child Support Enforcement in your area.
What happens if you do not pay child support in Mississippi?
The DCSE (Division of Child Support Enforcement) is a branch of the Mississippi Department of Human Services responsible for child support enforcement in the state.
This department or judge has the authority to use the listed enforcement actions against parents who fail to honor their obligation:
- Issue withholding orders to employers: this action forces the delinquent parent’s employer to tap child support directly at the source.
- Intercepting state, local, and federal tax returns.
- If the back-support amount exceeds $2500, the State Department will automatically deny, restrict, or revoke the paying parent’s passport.
- Credit bureau reporting: not only will this option make securing formal employment difficult, but it will also affect your mortgage, credit score, and capability to secure loans.
It is worth noting that unlike some states that only threaten jail time as a last resort, it is common for delinquent parents in Mississippi to be behind bars. The good news is the worst that could happen is two years in prison.
The bad news is non-payment becomes a felony if payments are 180 over or 9 times the monthly amount ordered.
When does non-support become a felony in Mississippi?
According to 609.375 Non-Support of Spouse or Child (2019) Sudb. 2a, quote, ” a person who violates subdivision 1 is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.”
“Felony violation. A person who violates subdivision 1 is guilty of a felony and upon conviction may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than two years or to payment of a fine of not more than $5,000, or both,”
Subdivision 1 defines nonsupport. Read more here.
What happens when charged with contempt for non-payment in Mississippi?
Contempt of court charges will prompt the judge to order the paying parent to appear in court and “show cause”. Consequently, you will have the opportunity to defend your position.
If it is a solid reason, then the court might decide a payment plan, or recommend modifications such as lowering payments. However, willful failure to pay child support will result in time behind bars. So, consult with a family court attorney in your area if facing this type of charge.
Alternatively, contact the DHS or receiving parent and establish a payment agreement before matters escalate into court battles.
Is there a statute of limitations on child support in Mississippi?
Mississippi Child Support Laws place the limit on child support arrears at 7 years past the age of majority.
When does child support end in Mississippi?
The age of majority is 21 in Mississippi; however, the law allows parents to end support early if the child becomes self-supporting, adopted, joins the military, or gets married before reaching 21.
If the child is mentally or physically disabled, payments may continue indefinitely depending on your child support order.
Termination of parental rights in Mississippi
Chapter 15-Mississippi Termination of parental rights law 93-15-111, says that parents in the state can voluntarily terminate their parental rights if:
- Both parents sign a written notice under oath at least seventy-two hours before childbirth.
- The parent/s consents to the adoption.
- The child is surrendered to a governmental agency
Remember, all agreements are only legal if entered knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.
Talk to a family court attorney in your area for more insight on this. But, do not forget, termination of your parental responsibility nullifies your say on how the child is raised.
Emancipation laws in Mississippi
In Mississippi, the judge awards emancipation at any age via court decree. Furthermore, temporary emancipation is granted when the child is in police custody and requires emergency service.
What is important to remember when seeking emancipation is that the child must be financially independent, his/her income must be legal, and you must be of sound mind.
Overall, Mississippi child support guidelines are difficult to navigate on your own, so we advise you to work full time with a family court attorney or use one for consultation services.
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