2006 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) Dearing
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 93-11-65, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CHANCELLOR IN AWARDING CUSTODY OF A CHILD WHO HAS REACHED HIS TWELFTH BIRTHDAY; TO PROVIDE THAT THE COURT MAY ASSESS COSTS FOR A GUARDIAN AD LITEM'S FEE BASED UPON THE PARTY'S ABILITY TO PAY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 93-11-65, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
93-11-65. (1) (a) In addition to the right to proceed under Section 93-5-23, Mississippi Code of 1972, and in addition to the remedy of habeas corpus in proper cases, and other existing remedies, the chancery court of the proper county shall have jurisdiction to entertain suits for the custody, care, support and maintenance of minor children and to hear and determine all such matters, and shall, if need be, require bond, sureties or other guarantee to secure any order for periodic payments for the maintenance or support of a child. 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. Proceedings may be brought by or against a resident or nonresident of the State of Mississippi, whether or not having the actual custody of minor children, for the purpose of judicially determining the legal custody of a child. All actions herein authorized may be brought in the county where the child is actually residing, or in the county of the residence of the party who has actual custody, or of the residence of the defendant. Process shall be had upon the parties as provided by law for process in person or by publication, if they be nonresidents of the state or residents of another jurisdiction or are not found therein after diligent search and inquiry or are unknown after diligent search and inquiry; provided that the court or chancellor in vacation may fix a date in termtime or in vacation to which process may be returnable and shall have power to proceed in termtime or vacation. Provided, however, that if the court shall find that both parties are fit and proper persons to have custody of the children, and that either party is able to adequately provide for the care and maintenance of the children, the chancellor may consider the preference of a child of twelve (12) years or older as to the parent with whom the child would prefer to live in determining what would be in the best interest and welfare of the child. The chancellor shall place on the record the reason or reasons for which the award of custody was made and explain in detail why the wishes of any child were or were not honored.
(b) An order of child support shall specify the sum to be paid weekly or otherwise. In addition to providing for support and education, the order shall also provide for the support of the child prior to the making of the order for child support, and such other expenses as the court may deem proper.
(c) The court may require the payment to be made to the custodial parent, or to some person or corporation to be designated by the court as trustee, but if the child or custodial parent is receiving public assistance, the Department of Human Services shall be made the trustee.
(d) The noncustodial parent's liabilities for past education and necessary support and maintenance and other expenses are limited to a period of one (1) year next preceding the commencement of an action.
(2) Provided further, that where the 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 in proportion to the relative financial ability of each.
(3) 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.
(4) When a charge of abuse or neglect of a child first arises in the course of a custody or maintenance action pending in the chancery court pursuant to this section, the chancery court may proceed with the investigation, hearing and determination of such abuse or neglect charge as a part of its hearing and determination of the custody or maintenance issue as between the parents, as provided in Section 43-21-151, notwithstanding the other provisions of the Youth Court Law. The proceedings in chancery court on the abuse or neglect charge shall be confidential in the same manner as provided in youth court proceedings, and the chancery court shall appoint a guardian ad litem in such cases, as provided under Section 43-21-121 for youth court proceedings, who shall be an attorney. In determining whether any portion of a guardian ad litem's fee shall be assessed against any party or parties as a cost of court for reimbursement to the county, the court shall consider each party's individual ability to pay. 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 the public.
(5) Each party to a paternity or child support proceeding shall notify the other within five (5) days after any change of address. In addition, the noncustodial and custodial parent shall file and update, with the court and with the state case registry, information on that party's location and identity, including social security number, residential and mailing addresses, telephone numbers, photograph, driver's license number, and name, address and telephone number of the party's employer. This information shall be required upon entry of an order or within five (5) days of a change of address.
(6) In any case subsequently enforced by the Department of Human Services pursuant to Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the court shall have continuing jurisdiction.
(7) In any subsequent child support enforcement action between the parties, upon sufficient showing that diligent effort has been made to ascertain the location of a party, due process requirements for notice and service of process shall be deemed to be met with respect to the party upon delivery of written notice to the most recent residential or employer address filed with the state case registry.
(8) 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.
(9) Upon motion of a party requesting temporary child support pending a determination of parentage, temporary support shall be ordered if there is clear and convincing evidence of paternity on the basis of genetic tests or other evidence, unless the court makes written findings of fact on the record that the award of temporary support would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2006.