The impact of divorce is not limited to the spouses. Determining the amount of financial support for their children is one of the most difficult but important issues and is inescapable because of the parents’ responsibility to support their children.
A parent’s willingness to pay or assume responsibility does not govern child custody and support matters. Mississippi and federal laws regulate child support payments.
The responsibility of paying support is for the children’s, not the custodial parents’, benefit. Changes in a parent’s marital status or the birth of more children in a second marriage do not change the original support obligation. But a custodial parent may not deny visitation to the supportive parent for not making support payments.
A parent’s gender is playing a reduced role in custody decisions. But most family law courts still award custody to the children’s mother. The custodial parent has the legal duty of assuring that support payments benefit their children and not themselves.
Courts and the parent’s children, but not the parent paying support, may request an accounting on how the support is being spent. These support payments typically end when the child is 21, enters the military, marries, becomes self-supporting or is adopted by another party.
Only 69% of child support awards are paid in this country. Parents, accordingly, should understand that the federal government and Mississippi are now engaged in aggressive enforcement of support orders.
Courts may issue a wage withholding order to parents who do not pay their mandated support payments. Delinquent parents may also face two years’ imprisonment. Courts have the discretion, however, not to impose these sanctions upon a parent who is destitute or unable to pay support.
A parent may ask a court for a reduction in support payments if their salary is reduced. Courts may also order an increase in payment if their salary increases.
Court must approve any modifications and parental agreements are not binding. Custodial parents may ask courts for more support as the child becomes older, to adjust for cost-of-living increases or because there are additional medical costs for the child.
Child support negotiations and proceedings may be complicated. Attorneys can assist parents with seeking and enforcing a fair and reasonable support order.