Family Law FAQs

Family law matters can be complicated, and you may have questions about divorce, child custody and support, paternity, or post-divorce matters such as relocation, modification and enforcement. Below are answers to some of these frequently asked questions. If you have other questions or need help with a pressing family law matter in the greater Jackson, Mississippi area, contact the Hancock Law Firm to visit with one of our caring and dedicated family law attorneys.

Q. Do I have to go to court to get divorced? Can’t we work things out ourselves?

A. Divorce certainly does not have to involve a lengthy, costly or emotionally-destructive legal battle. If you and your spouse can reach a written agreement on child custody, child support, alimony and the division of marital property, you can file a joint complaint for divorce on the ground of Irreconcilable Differences. The judge will review your agreement and approve it if it seems fair. If you can’t agree on everything, you can still reach agreement on some topics and litigate the rest. The family law attorneys at the Hancock Law Firm can help you by negotiating, drafting or reviewing an agreement, and helping resolve matters in court without acrimony.

Q. What if we want to live apart but can’t get divorced? Can we get a separation?

A. Sometimes married couples wish to split up but can’t get divorced because of religious or financial reasons, or because they are holding out the possibility of reconciliation. Although Mississippi does not recognize the concept of Legal Separation, you can still separate and come to terms with your spouse on certain legal issues. The court can institute an order of Separate Maintenance which one spouse must pay to the other if the couple doesn’t reconcile. This order can include both child support and spousal maintenance, and the court can implement a temporary order for child custody as well.

Q. How is paternity established when a child is born and the parents aren’t married?

A. Even if you are not married, both parents can voluntarily sign an acknowledgement of paternity form at the hospital after the baby is born. This action will put the father on the birth certificate. If not done at the hospital, this form can still be signed at a later date through DHS. The father who signs the form can rescind his acknowledgement within a year, or the acknowledgement can be rescinded at any time by court order, such as when the father’s paternity is challenged by another.

If paternity has not been voluntarily acknowledged, or if parentage is contested, a paternity case in court can be brought at any time by the mother, father, child or DHS. Genetic testing is usually ordered, although other evidence to prove or challenge paternity may be admitted as well.

Q. I’m being transferred out of state for work. Can I take the kids with me if I have primary custody?

A. If you have sole custody and the other parent has visitation, your move may not change the custody arrangement, but you may have to work out a new visitation schedule with your ex-spouse, or go to court if an agreement cannot be reached. If you share joint physical custody, you would need to go to court for a modification of the custody order and prove that the move is in the child’s best interests. Relocating with your child out of state or a significant distance away is a big step, and if you do not follow the proper procedures, you could find yourself in legal trouble and jeopardize your custody relationship with your child. Be sure and visit with an experienced family law attorney before you make the move, and notify the court within five days of any relocation.

Q. I had to get a new job that doesn’t pay as much, and I can’t afford to keep paying child support. What can I do?

A. If you can agree on a new amount with your ex-spouse, you can draw up a written agreement and submit it to the court for approval. Don’t change what you pay without a modification of the court order, though. If you and your former spouse cannot agree, you can still go to court and request a modification of the child support order. You will have to be able to prove that circumstances have changed which would justify a modification. A change in income is a typical reason that would support a modification. The judge may reapply the child support guidelines to determine a new amount, so long as the modification is still in the child’s best interests.

Q. What can I do if my ex is not paying child support on time, or at all?

A. There are many ways to collect child support from a parent who is not paying, including wage garnishment, liens or other collections and enforcement legal matters that your attorney can help you with. You can also reach out to the Mississippi Department of Human Services for help. As a government agency, DHS has many tools at its disposal such as intercepting tax refunds or withholding support amounts from unemployment benefits.

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