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In Mississippi, one of the more common reasons people head to the courthouse is to resolve a family law matter. Of the family issues that are most commonly litigated, child support payments rise to the top of the list. Some of the reasons for this are obvious. First, in most cases a child is considered by law to be dependent of one or more custodial parent or caregiver until he or she turns 21 years old or is emancipated under the laws of the State of Mississippi. This means that the needs of the child will change over time. After all, a high school student likely needs more money for books, clothes, and transportation expenses than a toddler.
When it comes to child support, are you concerned about how much you should be paying? How much should you expect to receive from the father or mother of your child? Taking a quick look at Mississippi’s statutory guidelines can help.
However, figuring out just how much child support payments should be is not an easy task. Every parent and every family is different. Some people are financially stable, but some are not. Many people pay their child support obligations on time, but again, some do not. For reasons like these, the Mississippi legislature has established legal guidelines to help courts decide how to structure child support payments. At the end of the day, a lot of decision-making for child support issues is left up to the court to decide. After all, courts are instructed to make all decisions, “in the best interests of the child.”
What Happens in the Initial Steps
Most often the court adjudicates custody to one parent or the other, or the parents can agree on who will be the custodial parent. Usually, the parent with physical custody of the minor child or children will receive child support payments from the non-custodial parent on behalf of the minor child or children. The determination of child support payments gets slightly trickier from here.
First, the court determines the income of the non-custodial, or paying parent. The income is calculated by finding the paying parent’s adjusted gross income.
Adjusted gross income is the amount of money from “all potential sources that may reasonably be expected to be available to the absent parent.” This income includes wages, salary, money from self-employment, investments, commissions, and many other sources. From this income, the court subtracts certain qualifying payments like taxes to determine the absent parent’s adjusted gross income. Once the absent parent’s adjusted gross income is sorted out, the court should direct a statutory percentage of that money towards child support.
The law recommends that the court adjust the percentage of income for child support based on the number of children to be supported.
How The Percentages Break Down:
1 Child = 14% of Adjusted Gross Income
2 Children = 20% of Adjusted Gross Income
3 Children = 22% of Adjusted Gross Income
4 Children = 24% of Adjusted Gross Income
5+ Children = 26% of Adjusted Gross Income
For example, a non-custodial parent with an annual adjusted gross income of $80,000 may pay $16,000 (20%) annually in child support payments for two children.
While the statutory directions are certainly helpful in estimating how much child support payments someone should be paying, they are not set in stone. As is common with many legal issues, the correct answer is often “it depends.”
For instance, the law directs the court to make a finding in writing as to whether these percentages are justifiable if the paying parent makes less than $10,000 per year or more than $100,000. In addition, the guidelines are a “rebuttable presumption,” meaning they can be adjusted if one side proves that the statutory percentage is not appropriate.
Why You Need a Child Support Attorney
Mississippi’s statutory guidelines for child support are yet another example of why it’s important to get the help of an attorney. While these guidelines are useful, they are no replacement for the services of a committed and experienced lawyer. With so many questions and arising situations, you’ll feel at ease knowing a professional advocate is by your side.
In fact, check out these five reasons why you may need an attorney.
Get In Touch
Attorney Vangela M. Wade has over 18 years of legal experience representing countless clients navigating a variety of difficult situations. As one of Mississippi’s best Family Law attorneys, The Wade Law Firm, PLLC is ready to answer your questions! Give us a call at 601.790.0043 or contact us online to discuss your legal matters in a confidential, affordable consultation.