In Mississippi, your custody order can affect your child support obligation. Although both parents have a duty to support their child, typically only the noncustodial parent makes child support payments. A "noncustodial parent" is the parent who spends less than fifty percent of the time with the child(ren). The "custodial parent" is the parent who lives with the child(ren). While a custodial parent remains responsible for child support too, the law assumes that this parent spends his or her income directly on the child.
A parent's duty to pay child support continues the child is 18, graduates high school, or becomes legally emancipated. In limited situations, one parent's child support obligation may continue past 18 if the child is still in high school or has a significant disability or medical need.
The amount of child support each parent pays depends on the parent's income and the number of children who need support. Mississippi sets a base support amount according to the Mississippi child support guidelines, which are simply a fee schedule.
Number of Children
Percentage of Income for Support
5 or more
However, you final child support amount could be quite different depending on your child's needs and family finances. Other costs, such as the child's medical care must be included. Likewise, a court can adjust the amount of support up or decrease a parent's child support obligation to better meet the child's needs. See Miss. Code Ann. § 43-19-101 (2020).
To calculate support, you will need to know the non-custodial parent's gross income. "Gross income" is money received from almost every source. It includes wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, pensions, military pay, and alimony received.
Gross pay can also include money that comes from investments, trusts, and interest in or from inherited property. Even if you're unemployed, chances are you still have income in the form of unemployment insurance, Social Security, or workers' compensation benefits.
When calculating support, you can exclude income that a subsequent spouse contributes to your current household. For example, if the noncustodial 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, you should multiply the parent's 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.
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 child or parent. See Miss. Code Ann. § 43-19-103 (2020).
Before a child support order is in place, either parent can ask the judge 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:
Parents can agree between themselves to modify (change) 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.
A judge won't approve the parents' agreement unless it serves the child's best interests. Only then will an 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 an official court 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 noncustodial parent's income has increased. By the same token, payments will go down if the noncustodial 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.
With a child support order in place, the custodial parent should receive regular and timely support payments. The noncustodial parent can pay child support in cash, by check, by bank transfer, or through payment apps such as Zelle or Venmo.
If your child's other parent is a deadbeat, meaning fails to pay court-ordered child support, you may have to contact Mississippi's Department of Human Services for help at 1-877-882-4916. The enforcement division can deduct child support directly from your ex's paycheck or take your case to a court for review and enforcement.
To apply for child support, find out more about payment options, or to have a current order enforced, you can visit Mississippi's Department of Human Services website.