In this post I have decided to write about a non-custodial parent's obligation to support his or her child in the State of Mississippi. Mississippi courts take the obligation of a parent to support a child very seriously. In Mississippi, child support is routinely awarded during a divorce, paternity, separate maintenance or custody action and the Mississippi child support guidelines provide that a "noncustodial" parent should pay the following percentage of his or her Adjusted Gross Income ("AGI") (gross income minus mandatory deductions) in support of children:
 14% for one child;
 20% for two children;
 22% for three children;
 24% for four children; and,
 26% for five or more children.
The statute also provides that the guidelines are presumptively correct for individuals with an adjusted gross yearly income between $5,000 and $50,000. While the court may award an upward or downward adjustment from the guidelines based on expenses of the parents, the needs of the children, or other particular facts of the case, there are also situations where the guidelines may not apply at all. For example, the guidelines may not apply in a situation where joint physical custody is awarded, as the guidelines contemplate a situation where there is one custodial parent who spends the majority of time with the child.
In determining the acceptable amount of child support, the court will first identify an individual's gross income from all sources. Income from overtime and second jobs will probably be included in gross income in Mississippi if the work remains consistent and predictable. For example, a one-time bonus or a one time job (i.e.,security guard at a single event) may not be required to be included in gross income, while a regular annual bonus or reoccurring second job (i.e., security guard at multiple sporting events) may be included by the court in the definition of gross income.
Once gross income is calculated, the individual's gross income is adjusted for taxes, other mandatory deductions (i.e. state retirement) and support for other children. The statutory percentages are then applied to the AGI to determine the presumptively correct amount of child support. The court may then deviate above or below this amount based on certain statutory criteria and, in addition, may order payment of expenses not considered covered by the basic child support award including health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, and college expenses.
It is important to remember that typically the obligation to pay child support will continue in Mississippi until each child reaches age twenty one (21) or is otherwise emancipated. Paying too much or too little support may create issues years down the road for both parents and children. Moreover, child support payments should always be paid in a manner that documents or records the transaction (i.e., check or money order...never cash).