Archive for the ‘Paying Support = Custody Rights?…Nope’ Category

Paying Support = Custody Rights?…Nope

Friday, October 11th, 2019

One of the most common calls we receive is a father who is paying child support, most often through the Mississippi Department of Human Services (D.H.S.), and believes that somehow he has automatic visitation or custody or visitation rights.  He is terribly and fundamentally incorrect. As morally wrong as it may seem, paying child support does not afford the payor to have any custodial rights at all …only an obligation to pay. Make no mistake, the state is merely a collection agency, nothing more.  They cannot, by law, be involved in when and where you get to see your little ones. Seems unfair, right? We will touch on that shortly, so stay with me.

Years ago, the state of Mississippi had a program administered by D.H.S. that promoted access for a paying parent to their child.  That is no longer the case. In fact, D.H.S. is so overwhelmed with deadbeat dads (and occasionally moms) that they have suspended the access/visitation program outright.  They simply lack the funding to continue what are deemed “non-essential” administrative duties required by statute. So what is a dad to do? Unfortunately they have no option other than hiring an attorney to pursue any rights at all.  Again, this seems to be unfair, but it is a reality that has to be faced sooner or later.

As I have said many times, if every person were reasonable, I wouldn’t be a domestic attorney.  Oftentimes, mothers are reluctant to allow their child to go with dad without a court order that requires a certain return time or other specifics that delineate their rights…and they should have that concern.  That belief is well-justified. Fathers generally are reluctant to pay an attorney to garner clear rights to the when, what, and hows that are front and center in any parenting scenario. The predicament that exists is a literal catch 22…both mom and dad have genuine concern and merit to their concerns, as they should.  

So what is the best answer?  It was said to me by a former client that “the only way to prevent a misunderstanding is to have a clear understanding”.  Well said. Couple that thought with the fact that Mississippi requires a court order on anything pertaining to child custody, support, and visitation and the best recipe is clear…the court must issue an order addressing all of these issues, or mom and dad both suffer…so does the child.  Even though dad is the likely recipient of a legal bill, the court’s involvement is paramount, mandatory for the child having a steady and peaceful, even predictable life and schedule. Kids benefit from that predictability in more ways than we, as adults, often realize.  

When you call an attorney and ask for advice, there are a few key ways to simplify your path forward. First, know that most of the callers to family attorneys have little or no communication with the person they created a child with, be it husband, wife, or an ex they never married.  Obviously, that is a shame. The best way to help yourself (and your child) is to make all efforts to keep an open line of communication with you ex…and I know this is easier said than done. If you are able to communicate, drop the hate that may exist, forget the past wrongs that may have been done, and your child will be the first benefactor. After all, their best interests are sacrosanct with yours.  Forgiving and forgetting are powerful tools when your child’s happiness is at stake.  

In the end, what matters is that you thrive for the sake of you and your children.  It is easy to relive old memories of being hurt, rejected, cheated on, or betrayed. However, your child deserves the benefit of a clear understanding, a court order, to thrive and have predictability, peace, and happiness.  Don’t do it for you, do so for them.