Monti Caldwell Bishop
Attorney at Law
419 S. State Street Suite C102
Jackson, MS 39201
- The Mississippi legislature has enacted guidelines for child support:
Number of Children Percentage of child support114%220%322%424%5 or more26%
- There are certain exceptions to the guidelines, including extraordinary medical needs of the child, seasonal variations in parent's incomes or expenses, special needs, and shared custody arrangements. If the payer's AGI is less than $5000.00 per year or more than $50,000.00 per year, the court may deviate from the guidelines.
- Child support is due at the time stated in the court order. Once child support is become past due, it has become "vested" and cannot be modified. However, the person receiving child support must wait until the following month (30 days) to file contempt allegations.
- Child support lasts until age 21 unless the child becomes emancipated otherwise (marriage, joins military, self-supporting). Emancipation is determined by the Court, not the parents. Do not stop paying child support without consulting an attorney first.
- Child support can be increased or decreased by the Court if there is a material change in the circumstances of one of the parties after the last court order.
- Agreements between the parents to modify child support must be in writing and incorporated into a court order in order to be enforced.
- If the payor loses his or her job or has a reduction of income and is unable to pay the current amount of child support, contact an attorney immediately to file the appropriate action because child support cannot be forgiven once it vests.
- Child support must be paid regardless of whether visitation is exercised, and vice versa.
- Both parties need to keep an accurate record of when the child support is due, the amount paid, and the date paid. The payor has the burden of documenting the payment by receipt, canceled check, etc. Never pay cash without receiving a receipt.
- If a withholding order is entered, the employer will take the child support money out of the payer's paycheck each time he or she is paid until a full month's support is withheld. The employer will send the money to the other parent, usually once per month on a certain date each month. If the parent receiving child support changes his or her address, he or she must notify the employer. If there are questions concerning when the check will arrive, he or she must contact the employer.
- The payor is responsible for making sure the correct child support amount is paid even if a withholding order is entered. Do not assume that your employer will get it right each month. Check your paycheck stub to make sure that the entire sum is withheld. If enough money has not been withheld for any reason, pay the difference to the other parent immediately upon discovery.
- Factors to be considered by the Court in determining custody include age, health and sex of the child; which parent has cared for the child prior to the separation; which parent has the best parenting skills and which has the willingness and capacity to provide primary child care; the employment of the parents and responsibilities of employment; physical and mental health and age of the parents; emotional ties between parents and child; more fitness of parents; home, school, and community record of the child; the preference of the child if age 12 or older; and the stability of the home environment and employment of each parent and other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship.
- Child custody may be modified if there is a material change in circumstances after the last court order which adversely affects the child and a change of custody is in the best interest of the minor child.
- A child who reaches age 12 can state a preference as to which parent he or she desires to live with, but the best interest of the child still controls.
- Agreements to change custody must be in writing and incorporated into a court order in order to be enforceable.
- Joint custody arrangements which require a 6 month/6 month or week-to-week split are normally not approved by the Court.
- Do not withhold visitation in retaliation.
- Try to cooperate with visitation issues. The court expects cooperation.
- Visitation is not conditioned upon payment of child support.
- The non-custodial parent cannot be made by the Court to visit if he or she chooses not to exercise his or her visitation; however, if this non-visitation continues over a period of time, the Court can take away the visitation if it is in the best interest of the minor child.
- Any modification of visitation must be in writing and incorporated into a court order in order to be enforceable.
- Transportation for visitation is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent unless the order provides otherwise.
- Normally, the court order will provide that the non-custodial parent give the other parent some amount of notice prior to summer visitation.
- If the child is ill and unable to exercise visitation, the custodial parent should notify the non-custodial parent immediately and reschedule the missed visitation. It is not unreasonable for the non-custodial parent to request a note from a doctor.
- If the non-custodial parent arrives to pick the minor child up for visitation and appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the custodial parent may deny visitation for the safety of the child. He or she should contact the police and make a report immediately. He or she should contact an attorney as soon as possible to modify the visitation rights.
- If the visitation exchange is causing problems, the parties may agree to meet at a neutral location (such as a police station parking lot or a restaurant) or have a 3rd party do the exchange (such as picking the child up from the babysitter).
Most court orders will include a 50/50 division for payment of the children's medical bills. If the papers do not say otherwise, the best way to handle this is as follows: The person who takes the child to the doctor should send a copy of the bill, receipt, explanation of benefit, or other documentation to the other parent, with a letter explaining what it was for and requesting payment within 30 days (unless your court order gives a different deadline). State whether you need to be reimbursed the money or if the payment needs to be paid to the provider. The parent sending this should keep copies of everything sent.
If there is a large bill owed to the provider and neither parent has the money to pay off his or her half, payment arrangements can usually be made with the provider. Each parent may sign a promissory note to the provider for his or her one-half.
Unless your court order says otherwise, the custodial parent (the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time) will have the right to claim the minor child/ren as tax dependants for federal and state tax purposes. If the parents agree to change this for a certain tax year, a form can be obtained from your tax preparer for both parents to sign which gives permission to claim the children.
This is a general information sheet. All of the matters contained herein may not apply to your situation. This is intended to answer questions that might arise during the process of your case or afterwards. If you have other questions or are unsure whether a certain statement applies to your case, please contact me.Monti C. Bishop