Child Support in Mississippi

Learn about Mississippi child support laws and how child support is determined.

Both Parents Must Support the Child

In Mississippi, both parents have a duty to support their child, but only the non-custodial parent makes child support payments. The  non-custodial parent  is the parent who spends less than half time with the child (or children). The  custodial parent, the parent with the most time with the child, remains responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that this parent spends income and other available assets directly on the child.

This duty to support continues until the child is 21, or otherwise becomes emancipated. If your child runs into some trouble with the law, then you don’t have to pay support while this child is in jail. At that point, however, child support payments may be the least of your concerns.

The amount of support each parent pays depends on income and the number of children who need support. The state sets a base support amount according to the child support guidelines, which are simply a fee schedule, but the final amount of support a court will order could be quite different. Other costs, such as the child’s medical care must be included. Likewise, a court can adjust the amount of support either up or down to better meet the child’s needs.

How to Calculate Child Support Payments

Mississippi’s child support guidelines assign a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s adjusted gross income to support payments as follows:

Number of Children

Percentage of Income for Support

1

14%

2

20%

3

22%

4

24%

5 or more

26%.

To calculate adjusted gross income, first you will need to know the non-custodial parent’s gross income. Gross income is income from almost every source. It includes wages, salary, and commissions as well as retirement benefits and alimony received. It is also money that comes from investments, trusts, and interest in or from inherited property. Even if you are unemployed, chances are you still have income in the form of unemployment insurance, social security, or workers’ compensation benefits.

You can exclude income that a subsequent spouse contributes to a current household. For example, if the non-custodial parent remarries, then the income this new spouse makes does not count toward the non-custodial parent’s gross income.

Once you have all of the non-custodial parent’s gross income, subtract all taxes, social security contributions, any mandatory retirement and disability contributions, and any child support already established. The difference is the non-custodial parent’s adjusted gross income.

To estimate child support payments, multiply the adjusted gross income by the percentage required per the number of children to support. This will give you the basic child support obligation, but one or both parents will also need to cover the cost of the child’s medical care.

Challenging the Amount of Support

The state presumes that the amount of child support given by the guidelines is the proper amount for your child. Sometimes, however, the total amount or the way it is divided is unfair to a parent or the child. Before a child support order is in place, either parent can ask to adjust the amount of support. Where a parent presents evidence that the amount would be unjust – this is called  rebutting the presumption  -- the court could either increase or decrease the amount of support based on the following:

  • extraordinary medical, psychological, educational or dental expenses
  • the child’s independent income
  • the amount of alimony paid to the custodial parent
  • seasonal variations in one or both parents’ incomes or expenses
  • the age of the child, taking into account the greater needs of older children
  • special needs that have traditionally been met within the family budget even though fulfilling those needs causes support to exceed the guidelines.
  • the particular shared parental arrangement
  • the total available assets of the parents and child
  • child care expenses, and
  • any other adjustment needed to achieve an equitable result that may include, but not be limited to, a reasonable and necessary existing expense or debt.

Modifying the Amount

Parents have the option to agree between themselves to modify the amount of support for their child. The agreement must be in writing, however, and either notarized or authorized by the clerk in the appropriate court. Then, this agreement must be filed with the court and approved by a judge. Only then will this agreement have the same force as the standing child support order.

If you can’t work together with the other parent, then you can still change a current child support order in one of two ways. First, you can request review of your child support order every three years. Any modification, however, would be based on the guidelines as well as the child’s best interests. There is a chance, therefore, that payments will go up if the non-custodial parent’s income has increased. By the same token, payments will go down if the non-custodial parent’s income has decreased.

Second, you can request a modification at any time if you have proof of a material change in circumstances. A common change in circumstance is the loss of a job, but it could also be a life change like a new baby or a change in the amount of time your child spends with you.

Resources

To apply for child support, find out more about payment options, or to have a current order enforced, go to the website for  Mississippi’s Department of Human Services.

The law on child support is at  Mississippi Code Sections 43-19-101 and 43-19-103, but you may need to visit your local library to read it.

 

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