Here’s what you need to know if you’re facing a child support issue in Mississippi.
- Who Must Pay Child Support in Mississippi?
- How is Child Support Determined in Mississippi?
- Which Agency Handles Child Support in Mississippi?
- How Do I Ask for Child Support?
- Factors that May Impact Child Support in Mississippi
- Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
- Establishing Paternity in Mississippi
- Enforcing Mississippi Child Support Orders
- Modifying Mississippi Child Support Payments
- Child Support and Taxes
- When Does Child Support End in Mississippi?
Who Must Pay Child Support in Mississippi?
When a child only lives with one of their parents (the custodial parent), the parent that the child doesn’t live with (the non-custodial parent) will often be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. Regardless of the circumstances, both parents are obligated to provide for their children financially.
Child support may be part of a court order in a divorce or actions involving paternity, child custody, family support, or interstate collection.
How is Child Support Determined in Mississippi?
The amount of child support is determined using statutory guidelines in Mississippi.
Mississippi child support guidelines are found in the Mississippi Code Annotated; Section 93, Chapters 5-23 and 11-65, and Section 99, Chapter 19-101.
These guidelines provide the percentage of the adjusted gross income (an individual’s total gross income minus specific deductions) of the parent responsible for paying support. The amount of support is also based on the number of children due support.
Both parents are required to submit a financial declaration. This declaration lists the child’s expenses, both the present expenses and those that the parent expects to be or which need to be incurred.
In some cases, the court may decide not to use the guidelines to determine the amount of child support.
The guidelines percentages are as follows:
- 1 child = 14% of net income
- 2 children = 20% of net income
- 3 children = 22% of net income
- 4 children = 24% of net income
- 5 children = 26% of net income
The child support formula is the same for sole and joint physical custody. Unlike in some states, parenting time doesn’t factor into the formula. However, Mississippi courts may consider deviating from the strict child support guidelines on a case-by-case basis when the nonresidential parent’s visitation time greatly exceeds what is considered customary.
If the paying parent is subject to an existing court order for another child or children, that amount will be subtracted from court-ordered support. Also, if the responsible parent is also the parent of another child or other children residing with them, then the court may deduct an amount that it deems appropriate to account for the needs of that child.
Mississippi family courts must comply with the child support guidelines specified in the statute, but a court has the right to deviate. The standard support awards are applicable unless the court finds that applying these guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate or the non-custodial parent’s adjusted gross income is more than $100,000 or less than $10,000.
Chancellors also have the authority to order parents to pay all or some portion of the expenses associated with the child’s daycare, sports, and other activities, whether school-related or not. There are no specific rules to guide how little or how much the court may award, other than the award cannot be unreasonable.
Read More: Mississippi Child Custody Laws
Which Agency Handles Child Support in Mississippi?
Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Child Support Enforcement (CSE) handles child support matters in the state.
Services provided by Mississippi’s child support program include:
- Locating parents
- Establishing paternity
- Establishing court orders for child support and
- medical support (health insurance)
- Obtaining and modifying court orders when appropriate
- Enforcing court orders for child support and medical support
- Working with other states, countries, and Tribal nations to establish and enforce support when one parent does not live in Mississippi or has assets in another state
- Collecting and processing child support payments.
CSE does not provide the following services:
- Divorce assistance
- Spousal maintenance (alimony) order establishment
- Enforcement of spousal support if there is no child support in the order
- Legal advice or counsel
- Representation in custody or visitation disputes
- Disestablishment of paternity services
- Emancipation of a minor
If you want more information about the child support program in Mississippi, visit the agency website, call customer service at 877-882-4916 or visit a local office near you.
Go here to find local office locations throughout Mississippi.
You can also call or visit the MDHS main office at
200 South Lamar St.
Jackson, MS 39201
If you have specific questions about support payments, call the Child Care Payment Program at 800.877.7882.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
You can apply through Child Support Enforcement by completing an online PDF application.
Parents can also visit any district office to complete an application or call the child support hotline at 877-882-4916 and request an application be mailed to your home.
If you are a TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, or foster care recipient, you will automatically be referred to a child support office for child support services.
There is a one-time $25 application fee for full child support services that must be paid by
personal check, cashiers or certified check, or money order. The fee is non-refundable. No application fee is required for location only services, and there is no application fee for cases referred by TANF, SNAP, Medicaid, and some foster care cases.
Mail completed applications to:
MDHS-Division of Child Support Enforcement
950 E. County Line Road, Suite #G
Ridgeland, MS 39157
Factors that May Impact Child Support in Mississippi
It is presumed that child support awards calculated according to Mississippi’s support guidelines are appropriate and just. In some cases, this presumption can change using the following facts and findings that the guidelines aren’t appropriate:
- Extraordinary medical, psychological, educational, or dental expenses
- Independent income of the child
- The payment of both child support and spousal support to the custodial spouse
- 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
- The particular shared parental agreement
- Total available assets of either parents or the child
- Child care expenses paid by the non-custodial parent to seek or retain employment, or because of the non-custodial parent’s disability, or
- Any other adjustment needed to achieve an equitable result
Some parents quit their jobs or are purposely underemployed to avoid paying child support. A judge has the option of imputing income based on past earnings, the local job market, skills, education, and other relevant factors. When calculating child support, the judge will consider not only the noncustodial parent’s actual earnings but also their earning capacity. A support order will then be created based on this calculated amount.
There are some instances when no child support order is likely to be approved. Those include:
- Both parents equally share the duties of raising the child
- The father is going to pay substantial visitation costs (e.g., the father lives in California and is paying airfare to fly the children from Mississippi to his home and back again)
- the child is nearly emancipated, particularly if the father contributes to the child’s college expenses.
In addition to child support, judges can also award child-related expenses. The most common expenses that parents are ordered to pay can include:
- Health insurance
- Medical expenses not paid/reimbursed by health insurance
- Life insurance (on the parent)
- Extracurricular activities
- Private school
How are college expenses handled?
A parent can be required to contribute if the child has an aptitude for college and the parent has the financial ability to pay. However, the child must have and maintain a healthy and caring relationship with the paying parent unless the parent caused the deterioration in the relationship.
There is no exact standard for measuring aptitude. Many agreements provide that the child must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA while enrolled full-time. Other agreements provide that the obligation to provide support extends only for the first eight semesters following graduation from high school, not counting summer semesters.
How are custody and visitation issues related to child support?
Child support and visitation rights are separate issues. The court determines both and usually orders the non-custodial parent to pay support and the custodial parent to make the child available for visits. The custodial parent must obey the court order for visitation, even if the non-custodial parent cannot or will not pay child support.
What happens when one parent doesn’t live in Mississippi?
All states must provide child support services regardless of where the other parent lives. Federal law requires states to work together to establish and enforce child support.
As a result, when a custodial parent lives in another state, Mississippi collects child support from the responsible parent and sends the support to the other state. Similarly, when the parent who owes support lives in another state, Mississippi can send a request to the other state to establish a new support order or enforce the existing Mississippi order.
These actions may occur if specific requirements are met under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).
Read More: Divorce Laws in Mississippi
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
Chancellors must include a provision that addresses health insurance when issuing child support orders. If a child is currently covered on either parent’s health insurance policy, the chancellor will likely order that parent to continue the coverage. The exception is if similar coverage is available to the other parent at a significantly lower premium.
There is no specific rule when determining which parent pays for health insurance. Generally, the parent with the most income (after taking into account the payment of alimony, child support, debt, and other expenses) will be the one more likely to be required to pay this expense.
A chancellor can also require a Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO). That is an order issued to the parent’s employer and requires them to keep the child(ren) enrolled on employer-sponsored health insurance for as long as the child is eligible for coverage. A QMCSO makes the employer responsible for the child’s enrollment so that the custodial parent does not have to trust the absent parent to do so.
What about unreimbursed medical expenses?
A chancellor usually requires one parent or both to pay the child’s healthcare expenses reimbursed by health insurance. Depending on each parent’s ability to pay these expenses, the chancellor can order a parent to pay from 0 to 100% of the expenses.
Establishing Paternity in Mississippi
Establishing paternity is critical for a child’s wellbeing. A child with a legal father is entitled to benefits that could include Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits, and inheritance rights. Children may also benefit by knowing their family’s biological, cultural, and medical history.
Paternity must also be established before a child support order is issued.
When a child is born to married parents, the law automatically recognizes both people as the child’s legal parents. When an unmarried woman has a child, an official action is needed to establish the child’s legal father.
Parentage can be established through:
- A birth certificate with a Simple Acknowledgement of Paternity
- A marriage license or certificate showing that the parents were married when a child was born or conceived.
- A paternity judgment entered by a court
- A legally obtained adoption.
Mississippi law authorizes MDHS to establish paternity at any time until the child turns 21 years or until the child is emancipated.
Paternity can be established by completing an Acknowledgement of Paternity when the child is born. The AOP is filed along with the birth certificate.
If a parent chooses not to establish paternity voluntarily, a petition to establish paternity must be filed with the appropriate court. If the alleged father refuses to sign the AOP, the mother can request assistance from the child support program in establishing paternity and obtaining child support through the court system.
A man who believes he is the biological father may want proof before he is named the legal father. In that case, he may request genetic testing. That will determine that the man is not the child’s biological father and that there is a greater than 99% likelihood that the man is the father.
Enforcing Mississippi Child Support Orders
There are several ways to collect and enforce child support in Mississippi. They include:
- Income Withholding -A parent’s employer who owes child support may withhold support from the employee’s wages.
- Intercepting unemployment benefits
- Federal or state refund tax offsets
- Credit bureau reporting. State law requires reporting the amount past due and the name of any delinquent parent in paying child support for a child support order that has remained unpaid for at least 60 days.
- Liens. These restrictions can be placed against workers’ compensation, personal injury claims, or real or personal property.
- Accounts frozen and seized.
- Passport revocation or application denial. This action can be taken when a parent owes back child support of $2,500 or more.
- License Suspension. Any state-issued license can be suspended if:
- The parent has failed to comply with a subpoena or warrant relating to paternity or child support proceedings, and the case contains a last known address for that parent.
- The parent is one or more months behind in making payments in full for current support and support arrearage, and the case contains a last known address for that parent.
- The parent fails to make a child support payment, and it remains unpaid for at least 30 days after agreeing to a payment plan.
- Contempt Action – A parent can be taken to court for contempt which could result in the court ordering the parent to jail if a child support payment is not made and the parent has not demonstrated an inability to pay. A contempt action will not be initiated until other enforcement remedies have been attempted.
Even when the non-custodial parent lives outside Mississippi, the law requires cooperation between states. The non-custodial parent is legally required to make regular child support payments, regardless of where they live.
Mississippi usually charges 8% interest on past due payments, retroactive support, and adjudicated arrears.
Also, Mississippi’s statute of limitations on back child support payments is seven years past the age of majority.
Modifying Mississippi Child Support Payments
If there is a substantial change of circumstances, you can request a review of your child support order at any time. You must demonstrate the substantial change, which can include:
- A significant increase or decrease in the responsible parent’s income.
- Increased needs caused by the advanced age and maturity of the children.
- Increase in expenses.
- The health and special needs of the child.
- The health and special medical needs of the parents.
Both parents are notified of their right to request a review every three years from when the order was entered or modified by the court. However, either parent can request a review of their case at any time when warranted.
Read More: How to Prepare for a Divorce Trial
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are not deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provides more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents can alternate years claiming a child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a similar statement.
When Does Child Support End in Mississippi?
The age of majority/emancipation in Mississippi is 21 years old. However, MDHS may still pursue the collection of child support arrears (past due) after the age of 21.
Emancipation also automatically occurs when the child marries, joins the military, serves on a full-time basis, or is convicted of a felony and is sentenced to two or more years in jail.
If a parent files a petition, a Mississippi court may determine that emancipation has also occurred when the child discontinues full-time enrollment in school after 18 or if the child voluntarily moves from the home of the custodial parent or guardian, lives on their own independently, obtains full-time employment, and does not continue their education before turning 21.
If both parents agree, support may continue beyond 21. In other cases, the court may order an extension if the child is disabled or has special needs.