Posts Tagged ‘Jackson divorce attorney’

Mississippi Supreme Court to Re-Visit the Issue of Child Support for Disabled Adult Children

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to take another look at an interesting child support question it first addressed several months ago.  In June of 2013, the Supreme Court heard a case arising out of Hinds County in which the plaintiff sought a modification of child support as well as alimony from her ex-husband for the care of their adult son who suffered from a serious medical ailment.  The court agreed with the chancery judge who had denied the request for modification.  It reasoned that the current state law does not require parents to financially support their children once they attain the age of 21.  Further, the Legislature has not passed any law requiring parents pay support for disabled children over the age of 21.  Accordingly, the court saw no justification for granting a modification of support.

The case now before the Supreme Court is strikingly similar but will concern a different legal question—which might make all the difference in the decision of the justices.  The case arises out of Madison County and again involves a disabled child over the age of majority.  Here, however, the justices have asked the parties and the attorney general’s office to provide briefs on the issue of whether the denial of child support to disabled children over the age of 21 violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment where the disabled child is incapable of self-support due to a mental or physical limitation.

This equal protection issue was actually raised by the Supreme Court on its own, and not by the parties.  In the original Hinds County case, Justice Leslie King spoke for the minority and felt the case should be returned to the chancellor who could then determine whether the disabled child should ever have been considered emancipated.  Emancipation is defined as the age at which the child leaves the control of a parent, and in Mississippi this age is 21.  However, according to King, where the child is disabled before reaching the age of 21, and is incapable of self-support, he or she is unable to be emancipated and child support should thus continue until his or her status changes in this regard.  The majority, however, rejected this argument, finding the child support duty of a parent does not extend beyond the age of 21, and only the legislature has the power to grant the authority to require the parent provide support beyond this period.

Many other states have statutes specifically in place requiring continued support for disabled children even after they have attained the age of majority.  Still others allow awards of child support to adult disabled children through case law precedence.  The case now before the Supreme Court could have significant implications for the parents of older disabled children.  Often, caretaker parents of disabled adult children are left shouldering a significant burden.  Though their child is over 21, they continue to require physical and financial support.  While it seems the Supreme Court is attempting to craft a means of ordering child support for adult disabled children through the equal protection argument, time will tell whether the majority of the justices agree.

Matthew S. Poole has helped thousands of parents secure the child support necessary to adequately provide for their child’s wants and needs.  With years of experience in the realm of divorce law and expert knowledge in the field of child support, Matthew will fight for you to receive the support your children are entitled to.  Call Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Do Stepparents Have any Custody Rights Following a Divorce in Mississippi?

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Although being a stepparent can be a confusing and difficult job in many cases, there are just as many cases in which the biological parent becomes a true parent in every sense of the word. When a divorce occurs, it can be wrenching for the stepparent who suddenly has no rights as well as for the child. In most states, including Mississippi, stepparents do not have custody rights unless a biological parent is considered unfit or voluntarily relinquishes his or her parental rights so the stepparent is able to adopt the child following the divorce. Legal custody rights and responsibilities rarely extend to stepparents although in many cases stepparents are the primary caretaker of the child or children.

Consider the case of a woman with an 18-month old child who remarries. The new wife raises the child, essentially becoming a parent. A decade later, the couple decides to divorce, and suddenly the woman who has been a mother in every way to the child has no rights to custody whatsoever. Not only is this hard on the stepparent who loves the child, it is hard on the child to suddenly have a primary caregiver in his or her life cut out like she never existed. While the courts are beginning to recognize the importance of the role stepparents have played in children’s lives, the laws are slow to catch up.

In some cases a stepparent who has acted as the parent of a child for a significant period of time may be awarded visitation rights although it is likely the stepparent will have to fight for those rights. The courts must believe this visitation is in the best interests of the child, and it will fall to the stepparent to prove that. The longer the relationship with the child, the more likely the courts will grant some form of visitation rights to the stepparent.

The Child’s Best Interests

Courts are routinely charged with determining what is in the best interests of the child; when the bond between the stepparent and child is apparent, and it is clear the child looks at the stepparent in the same way as the biological parent, then visitation rights are possible. Before this can occur, the stepparent must establish standing—the right of a party to be heard. This standing will be largely determined by the prior level of participation in the child’s life.  If the biological parent does not agree that a continuing relationship is in the child’s best interests, a guardian ad litem may be appointed.

The guardian ad litem will look at all the circumstances surrounding the relationship, meeting with the child, the biological parent and the stepparent before making a recommendation to the court. Teachers, neighbors and friends could be interviewed as well—anyone who has some type of personal insight into the relationship between the stepparent and the child. Biological parents need to at least try to put their personal issues aside and truly consider what is best for the child. If the child has enjoyed a lengthy, warm, loving relationship with the stepparent, it could hardly be a positive move to abruptly take that away no matter how awkward the situation might be.

Rights and Responsibilities

Although the stepparent may be granted certain rights following a divorce, those rights may also bring responsibilities—the same responsibilities a biological parent would fall under. The stepparent who receives visitation rights or some form of custody could be held responsible for child support, depending on the specific circumstances. At present, nearly half the states have implemented laws which authorize visitation for stepparents and ten more have granted stepparents the right to seek visitation. Thirteen states grant any interested third party the right to request visitation, including grandparents, other family members or stepparents. Only four states give no rights to stepparents regarding visitation.

When You Need Legal Custody Assistance, Call the Law Offices of Matthew Poole

Stepparents need assistance when seeking visitation rights and Matthew S. Poole has the experience in all types of custody to do just that. Matthew Poole makes a commitment to each and every client to work hard to get that client what they need and deserve whether it is a divorce case or a child custody case. Matthew truly understands the intricacies of many issues related to family law as well as the emotions involved as he is a single dad of young son. In an ongoing effort to provide the very best legal help for his clients, Matthew Poole deliberately keeps a lighter caseload. Call (601) 573-7429 to set up an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.

Jackson Divorce Attorney Discusses Child Support in Mississippi

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

No matter where you live, getting a divorce is extremely taxing for all parties involved, including the parties’ minor children. In Mississippi however, state guidelines governing child support awards set aside a specific percentage of one’s gross adjusted income – known as the percentage of income formula – to determine same, which primarily depends upon the number of children born of the marriage.  Said percentages are as follows: for 1 child – 14%, 2 children – 20%, 3 children – 22%, 4 children – 24%, and 5 children or more – 26%.  Additional factors may be taken into account in determining an appropriate child support award, such as the taxes paid by the parties, their respective 401k/IRA contributions, and daycare costs, if applicable.  In the event that the parties were never married and the father of the child(ren) does not contribute to their support, the Mississippi child support office can ask the court to render a paternity determination and assess child support accordingly.

A Mississippi court has the discretion to order child support pursuant to the interests of justice and equity.  In cases where both parties have substantial earnings or assets, each can be required to provide financial support for the minor children in proportion to their financial ability.  Additionally, a party may be ordered to pay for the health insurance of the minor child/children.

Child support in Mississippi typically ceases when the minor child or children of the marriage attain the age of 21, join the military, are married, or, are incarcerated for two years or more.  At the time of emancipation, one’s child support obligation technically ends however, the court must be made aware of this before a person can voluntarily stop paying.

Failing to pay child support can result in serious and sometimes irreversible legal consequences.  In this view, it is strongly recommended that people remain current on their child support payments, despite the financial difficulty in doing so.  The consequences associated with people who accrue child support arrearages can include being held in contempt of court for his or her violation of the court’s original child support order. A parent who does not render timely child support payments can also be sent to jail, have their wages and/or bank accounts garnished, lose their driver’s license, and have their passport revoked.  Before back child support payments start adding up, it is urged that people consult with an attorney, who can assist them in determining whether they are eligible to modify the original child support order based upon a change in their financial circumstances.

If you are considering getting a divorce, or would like to know whether you may be eligible for a modification to your current child support order, give us a call now to learn more about how we can help you.  We are highly experienced family law attorneys who look forward to providing you with superior legal representation.

The 411 on Getting a Divorce in Mississippi

Friday, August 17th, 2012

In Mississippi, state law governs the process by which one can get a divorce.  Specifically, it dictates the particulars of who can get a divorce, the underlying legal process related to same, how property is divided, and also, the manner in which child custody and support are determined.  Accordingly, it is important to become familiar with Mississippi’s divorce laws in order to understand your legal options and obligations before starting the process.

Who then, is entitled to get a divorce in Mississippi?  Generally, parties eligible to get divorced in Mississippi must have sufficient contacts with the State, which primarily includes being a resident for at least 6 months prior to filing.  While a divorce premised on no-fault grounds may be commenced in any county where either spouse resides, a fault based divorce however, must be brought where the filing party resides if the defendant cannot be located or lives outside of the State.  In the event that the defendant is a resident of Mississippi, then the divorce proceeding can be brought in any county where the spouses reside.

Does Mississippi require you to be separated for a certain period of time before starting the divorce process, and how long does the divorce process usually take?  In Mississippi, there is no statutory requirement to be separated before filing for divorce.  However, there is a sixty day waiting period before the court can order a no-fault divorce.  In highly contested cases, a divorce can take several months, if not years, to resolve.

What are the costs associated with filing for divorce in Mississippi?  When you file for divorce, there generally are two costs for pursuing same, which includes both court costs and legal fees.  The cost for actually filing your divorce case is usually around $52.00, but you may be required to pay an additional $25.00 for serving your spouse with your divorce petition.  As for legal fees, this generally varies depending upon the degree of complexity of your case and the legal positions of the parties (i.e. are the parties trying to resolve the case together or are they completely polarized?).

Is it necessary for me to prove grounds for getting a Mississippi divorce?  Generally, no.  In Mississippi, you can get a divorce on no-fault grounds, which means that you can end your marriage due to whatever reason why the union has irreconcilably ended.  Importantly, there is also no greater benefit to a party seeking a divorce based upon fault (such as adultery, impotency, insanity, desertion, etc.), as such grounds must be proven in the event that they are challenged.

How do Mississippi courts divide marital property?  Mississippi is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that each spouse takes his or her separate property, with the court dividing the marital property based upon several dispositive factors, such as the age, education, background and earning capacities if both parties, the standard of living during the marriage, the health and needs of the parties, etc.

How is child support determined in Mississippi?  Child support is examined in Mississippi using what is called the “income shares” model, which includes 1) calculating the income of both parents and adding it up, 2) taking the total income sum and applying it in a way to render the applicable child support payment percentages, 3) adding to the equation the extra costs incurred by the parties, including daycare and medical expenses, etc., and 4) dividing the ultimate sum by each party’s respective income.  Additionally, child support is payable to the custodial spouse until emancipation of the child, which usually occurs when the child turns 21, is married, joins the armed services, or is sent to prison for at least two years.  Under certain circumstances, a Mississippi court can also order that a child be emancipated.

Will I have to pay alimony to my ex?  A party may entitled to alimony, or spousal support, depending upon several factors, (while not exhaustive), including the income, expenses, ages, and physical condition of the parties.  Additional considerations are:  the standard of living of the parties, the financial needs of the spouse seeking alimony, and whether any of the parties engaged in misconduct during the marriage.  Alimony in Mississippi can either be permanent or temporary, depending upon the underlying circumstances of one’s case.

If you are seeking to get a divorce in Mississippi, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling these types of complex cases.  As evident from the above, there are several factors associated with getting a divorce in Mississippi, which makes it essential to work with an attorney capable of advising you of your legal options, the nature and extent of your rights and responsibilities, as well as the ways in which you can reduce your potential liability exposure. Give us a call now to learn more about how we can help you.  We look forward to providing you with superior legal representation.