2005 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) Dawkins
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTIONS 93-5-23, 9-1-17, 9-5-87, AND 99-37-19, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO FOSTER COLLECTION OF CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS FROM DEADBEAT PARENTS THROUGH STRUCTURED WORK RELEASE PROGRAMS AND TO ALLEVIATE OVERCROWDING IN COUNTY JAILS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 93-5-23, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-5-23. When a divorce shall be decreed from the bonds of matrimony, the court may, in its discretion, having regard to the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case, as may seem equitable and just, make all orders touching the care, custody and maintenance of the children of the marriage, and also touching the maintenance and alimony of the wife or the husband, or any allowance to be made to her or him, and shall, if need be, require bond, sureties or other guarantee for the payment of the sum so allowed. Orders touching on the custody of the children of the marriage shall be made in accordance with the provisions of Section 93-5-24. The court may afterwards, on petition, change the decree, and make from time to time such new decrees as the case may require. However, where proof shows that both parents have separate incomes or estates, the court may require that each parent contribute to the support and maintenance of the children of the marriage in proportion to the relative financial ability of each. In the event a legally responsible parent has health insurance available to him or her through an employer or organization that may extend benefits to the dependents of such parent, any order of support issued against such parent may require him or her to exercise the option of additional coverage in favor of such children as he or she is legally responsible to support.
Whenever the court has ordered a party to make periodic payments for the maintenance or support of a child, but no bond, sureties or other guarantee has been required to secure such payments, and whenever such payments as have become due remain unpaid for a period of at least thirty (30) days, the court may, upon petition of the person to whom such payments are owing, or such person's legal representative, enter an order requiring that bond, sureties or other security be given by the person obligated to make such payments, the amount and sufficiency of which shall be approved by the court. The obligor shall, as in other civil actions, be served with process and shall be entitled to a hearing in such case.
At the discretion of the court, any person found in contempt of court for failure to pay child support, and imprisoned therefor, may be referred for placement in a Department of Corrections-operated or, in counties where established, a county-operated restitution center, provided the person meets the qualification prescribed in Section 99-37-19.
Whenever in any proceeding in the chancery court concerning the custody of a child a party alleges that the child whose custody is at issue has been the victim of sexual or physical abuse by the other party, the court may, on its own motion, grant a continuance in the custody proceeding only until such allegation has been investigated by the Department of Human Services. At the time of ordering such continuance the court may direct the party, and his attorney, making such allegation of child abuse to report in writing and provide all evidence touching on the allegation of abuse to the Department of Human Services. The Department of Human Services shall investigate such allegation and take such action as it deems appropriate and as provided in such cases under the Youth Court Law (being Chapter 21 of Title 43, Mississippi Code of 1972) or under the laws establishing family courts (being Chapter 23 of Title 43, Mississippi Code of 1972).
If after investigation by the Department of Human Services or final disposition by the youth court or family court allegations of child abuse are found to be without foundation, the chancery court shall order the alleging party to pay all court costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred by the defending party in responding to such allegation.
The court may investigate, hear and make a determination in a custody action when a charge of abuse and/or neglect arises in the course of a custody action as provided in Section 43-21-151, and in such cases the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child as provided under Section 43-21-121, who shall be an attorney. Unless the chancery court's jurisdiction has been terminated, all disposition orders in such cases for placement with the Department of Human Services shall be reviewed by the court or designated authority at least annually to determine if continued placement with the department is in the best interest of the child or public.
The duty of support of a child terminates upon the emancipation of the child. The court may determine that emancipation has occurred and no other support obligation exists when the child:
(a) Attains the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(b) Marries, or
(c) Discontinues full-time enrollment in school and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years, or
(d) Voluntarily moves from the home of the custodial parent or guardian and establishes independent living arrangements and obtains full-time employment prior to attaining the age of twenty-one (21) years.
SECTION 2. Section 99-37-19, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
99-37-19. The boards of supervisors of the several counties and the governing authorities of municipalities are hereby authorized to cooperate with the Department of Corrections in the establishment of restitution centers. Such centers may house both probationers referred by the circuit courts as well as inmates transferred from other facilities of the Department of Corrections as provided in Section 47-5-110; the centers may also house those contemnors referred by the chancery court for failure to pay child support separately from probationers and inmates. In order to qualify for placement in a restitution center, an offender must: (a) be convicted of a nonviolent offense that constitutes a felony, (b) not be convicted of a sex crime and (c) not have drug, alcohol, emotional or physical problems so serious that the offender appears unlikely to meet obligations of the restitution program. Such centers shall be operated by the Department of Corrections. County or municipal property may be utilized with the approval of the board of supervisors or municipal governing authority for the construction, renovation and maintenance of facilities owned by the state or a local political subdivision. Such facility may be leased to the Department of Corrections for a period of time for use as a restitution center.
It is the intent of this section that county and local governments contribute only to the establishment, renovation and maintenance of the physical plant of a restitution center and that the Department of Corrections support the operation of, and have sole jurisdiction over and responsibility for offenders and contemnors in, such restitution program.
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SECTION 3. Section 9-1-17, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
9-1-17. The Supreme, circuit, chancery and county courts and the Court of Appeals shall have power to fine and imprison any person guilty of contempt of the court while sitting, but the fine shall not exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) for each offense, nor shall the imprisonment continue longer than thirty (30) days. If any witness refuse to be sworn or to give evidence, or if any officer or person refuse to obey or perform any rules, order, or judgment of the court, such court shall have power to fine and imprison such officer or person until he shall give evidence, or until the rule, order, or judgment shall be complied with.
At the discretion of the court, any person found in contempt of court for failure to pay child support payments, and imprisoned therefor, may be referred for placement in a Department of Corrections-operated or, in counties where established, a county-operated restitution center, provided the person meets the qualification prescribed in Section 99-37-19.
SECTION 4. Section 9-5-87, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
9-5-87. The chancery court, or the chancellor in vacation, or judge granting the writ, shall have power to punish any person for breach of injunction, or any other order, decree, or process of the court, by fine or imprisonment, or both, or the chancellor or judge granting the writ may require bail for the appearance of the party at the next term of the court to answer for the contempt; but such person shall be first cited to appear and answer. And any person so punished by order of the chancellor in vacation, may on five days' notice to the opposite party, apply to a judge of the Supreme Court, who, for good cause shown, may supersede the punishment until the meeting of the said chancery court.
At the discretion of the chancellor, any person found in contempt of court for failure to pay child support, and imprisoned therefor, may be referred for placement in a Department of Corrections-operated or, in counties where established, a county-operated restitution center, provided the person meets the qualification prescribed in Section 99-37-19.
SECTION 5. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2005.