The laws that govern child support in Mississippi are clear and straightforward. After a divorce or non-married parents split up, child support must be paid from one parent to the other. The traditional way this works is that one parent is named the custodial parent and the other the noncustodial parent. The noncustodial parent pays some percentage of their income to the custodial one to help with the needs of their child or children. The amount they are required to pay can be higher or lower based on the noncustodial parent’s income and the needs of the child or children. The number also increases with the number of children they are supporting.
Child support is a very important element of Mississippi family law because the court believes that the child is entitled to the same life they would have received had their parents stayed together. Nonpayment and late payments can be punishable by fines, loss of licenses, and even jail time in extreme situations. In this article, we’ll discuss how child support is calculated, the differences between retroactive and back support, and what to do if your spouse owes you child support but refuses to pay.
How Is Child Support Calculated?
As a general rule, the noncustodial parent will pay 14% of their adjusted gross income for one child. The percentage steadily increases for each additional child. Two children result in 20%; for three children, it is 22%; for four children, it is 24%; for five children, it is raised to 26%. If there are additional children after five, the number remains at 26% of the noncustodial parent’s adjusted gross income.
The final number can be raised or lowered by the family law judge based on determining factors specific to your situation. If the child has a chronic illness, for instance, the number may be raised to help the custodial parent pay medical bills. If custody is shared evenly, the number may be lowered based on the presumption that the noncustodial parent is paying for the child firsthand. Child support must be paid until the child is emancipated at the age of 21 or join military service full-time.
Retroactive Support Vs. Back Support
Back support is what the noncustodial parent owes in child support payments that they have not paid. This is a running tally of unpaid support that is past due. Back support can be obtained by a court order that will garnish the offending parent’s wages until they are back in good standing. Additionally, a tax offset interception can be enforced, which would intercept any state or federal tax refunds until the balance is paid. More serious tactics can be employed if the noncustodial parent continues to avoid paying duties. We’ll discuss that further in a later segment.
Retroactive child support is not child support that had gone unpaid but rather child support that should have been paid before the child support order was in place. This can occur if the custodial parent spent money caring for their child before the divorce was finalized or if the child’s paternity had not yet been determined. In cases like this, the judge will present a child support order and then assign some smaller amount of money as retroactive pay to reimburse the custodial parent for the time they were parenting alone. Like back pay, retroactive pay can be collected from an unpaying spouse in various ways. It is a legal obligation that the noncustodial parent will be forced to pay if need be.
What If My Former Spouse Refuses To Pay?
If your child’s other parent will not pay their child support obligations, it is important to inform the court immediately. Child support can be forcefully imposed by a Mississippi child support enforcement center that has many tools at its disposal for collecting the required funds. As we discussed above, wage-garnishing and tax refund interception is commonly all that is needed in cases of nonpayment. In more difficult cases, however, the family court will allow the enforcement center to employ one or several of the following methods:
- Unemployment Interception: an unemployed parent is still obligated to provide for their children, so their unemployment checks can be garnished.
- The Freezing or Seizing of Accounts: checking and savings accounts in banks or credit unions may be seized for nonpayment.
- License Suspension: licenses of all kinds may be suspended for a parent who owes back child support, including their driving and hunting licenses.
- Contempt Action: the offending parent may be found in contempt of court for nonpayment, and jail time may be assigned. Child support is the only form of debt that can result in jail time in the United States.
If you have questions about child support, back support, or retroactive support, call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard at (601) 824-9797.