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How is child support affected by joint custody?

One of factors taken into consideration when determining child support is how much time each parent will spend with the child. If a child lives with one parent, that parent has primary physical custody and will usually receive child support since they are mostly responsible for the child's everyday expenses.

However, when the child spends equal time living with each parent, they therefore have joint custody and share responsibility for the child's day-to-day expenses. In that case, the determination of whether a parent - and which parent - will receive child support depends on a number of factors. Each state has its own guidelines used to calculate child support.

States generally use one of three models to determine child support payments. Mississippi follows the percentage of income model for sole custody and joint custody cases. This model only considers only the noncustodial parent's income and requires child support payments to be made to the custodial parent.

The adjusted gross income is determined by subtracting mandatory deductions (such as taxes and retirement contributions) from the noncustodial parent's annual gross income. A state-mandated percentage of that adjusted gross income is allocated for child support. Additional amounts may be factored in according to the needs of the child such as child care and medical expenses.

However, Mississippi courts will allow deviation from the statutory formula based on the particular facts of the case. For example, if the non-custodial parent spends a significant amount of time with the child, thereby reducing the financial expenditures of the custodial parent, Mississippi courts may allow a downward adjustment for the noncustodial parent.

Therefore, the Mississippi percentage of income model is more of a provisional guideline than an immutable rule. Although states differ in the model used to calculate child support payments, they adhere to the same overarching principle in all child custody cases - the best interests of the child.

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