Category Archives: Crime

Mississippi Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA); How to prevent Parental Abduction in Custody cases.

In 2010, Mississippi enacted the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). This statute is designed to give the Courts the authority to prevent child abduction in parental custody/visitation disputes. This statute, in conjunction with the UCCJEA regarding interstate jurisdictional determinations, provides remedies to  prevent abduction by providing for injunctive relief upon a demonstration of a credible “risk of abduction.” 

The statutes provides the following;

§ 93-29-13. Factors to determine risk of abduction.

(a)  In determining whether there is a credible risk of abduction of a child, the court shall consider any evidence that the petitioner or respondent:

(1) Has previously abducted or attempted to abduct the child;

(2) Has threatened to abduct the child;

(3) Has recently engaged in activities that may indicate a planned abduction, including:

(A) Abandoning employment;

(B) Selling a primary residence;

(C) Terminating a lease;

(D) Closing bank or other financial management accounts, liquidating assets, hiding or destroying financial documents or conducting any unusual financial activities;

(E) Applying for a passport or visa or obtaining travel documents for the respondent, a family member or the child; or

(F) Seeking to obtain the child’s birth certificate or school or medial records;

(4) Has engaged in domestic violence, stalking or child abuse or neglect;

(5) Has refused to follow a child-custody determination;

(6) Lacks strong familial, financial, emotional or cultural ties to the state or the United States;

(7) Has strong familial, financial emotional or cultural ties to another state or country;

(8) Is likely to take the child to a country that:

(A) Is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and does not provide for the extradition of an abducting parent or for the return of an abducted child;

(B) Is party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction but:

(i) The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is not in force between the United States and that country;

(ii) Is noncompliant according to the most recent compliance report issued by the United States Department of State; or

(iii) Lacks legal mechanisms for immediately and effectively enforcing a return order under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;

(C) Poses a risk that the child’s physical or emotional health or safety would be endangered in the country because of specific circumstances relating to the child or because of human rights violations committed against children;

(D) Has laws or practices that would:

(i) Enable the respondent, without due cause, to prevent the petitioner from contacting the child;

(ii) Restrict the petitioner from freely traveling to or exiting from the country because of the petitioner’s gender, nationality, marital status or religion; or

(iii) Restrict the child’s ability legally to leave the country after the child reaches the age of majority because of a child’s gender, nationality or religion;

(E) Is included by the United States Department of State on a current list of state sponsors of terrorism;

(F) Does not have an official United States diplomatic presence in the country; or

(G) Is engaged in active military action or war, including a civil war, to which the child may be exposed;

(9) Is undergoing a change in immigration or citizenship status that would adversely affect the respondent’s ability to remain in the United States legally;

(10) Has had an application for United States citizenship denied;

(11) Has forged or presented misleading or false evidence on government forms or supporting documents to obtain or attempt to obtain a passport, a visa, travel documents, a social security card, a driver’s license or other government-issued identification card or has made a misrepresentation to the United States government;

(12) Has used multiple names to attempt to mislead or defraud; or

(13) Has engaged in any other conduct the court considers relevant to the risk of abduction.

(b)  In the hearing on a petition under this chapter, the court shall consider any evidence that the respondent believed in good faith that the respondent’s conduct was necessary to avoid imminent harm to the child or respondent and any other evidence that may be relevant to whether the respondent may be permitted to remove or retain the child.

Miss. Code Ann. §93-29-1 et. seq.

UCAPA is a another arrow in the quiver of child custody remedies when dealing with a dangerous opposing party. It is not often invoked, but is a necessary remedy in the above specific situations.

Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody lawyer in Mississippi and advises all parents to take serious Child Custody matters.

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Youth Court in Mississippi

Youth Courts deal with matters involving allegations of abuse and neglect of children.(Youth Courts also handle cases involving offenses committed by juveniles, persons who have not reached the age of 18 may be subject to the Youth Court, although there are some exceptions. Some offenses which would be treated as crimes if committed by adults are known as “delinquent acts” when they involve juveniles.”)

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21 counties have a County Court Judge serving as Youth Court Judge. In counties which do not have a County Court, the Chancery Judge may hear Youth Court matters, or the Chancery Judge may appoint a lawyer to act in a judicial capacity as Youth Court Referee. The city of Pearl also has its own municipal Youth Court.

In Madison County the County Court Judges also serve as Youth Court Judges. In Hinds and Rankin Counties, they have Youth Court Judges that serve in dedicated Youth Courts.

Child abuse can be:

  • Emotional: anything said or done that is hurtful or threatening to a child, such as name calling, belittling a child, or making threats of harm.
    • Name calling; “You’re stupid.”
    • Belittling; “I wish you were never born.”
    • Destroying child’s possessions or harming pets.
    • Threatens to harm child or people they care about; “I’m going to choke you,” or “I’ll hurt your sister.”
    • Locking a child in a closet or box.
    • Rejecting a child.
    • Isolating a child.
  • Sexual Abuse is any inappropriate touching by a friend, family member, anyone having ongoing contact and/or a stranger, such as:
    • Touching a child’s genital area.
    • Any type of penetration of a child.
    • Allowing a child to view or participate in pornography.
    • Prostitution, selling your child for money, drugs, etc.
    • Forcing a child to perform oral sex acts.
    • Masturbating in front of a child.
    • Having sex in front of a child.
    • Touching a Child’s genital area.
  • Physical: any type of contact that results in bodily harm or bruising, or physically restraining a child improperly.
    • Hitting or slapping a child with an extension cord, hands, belts, fists, broom handles, brushes, etc.
    • Putting child into hot water.
    • Cutting the child with a knife or any other sharp object.
    • Shaking or twisting arms or legs, yanking a child by the arm.
    • Putting tape over a child’s mouth.
    • Tying a child up with rope or cord.
    • Throwing a child across a room or down the stairs.
  • Neglect: not meeting the basic needs of the child, including not giving essential medicines or food, leaving a child unsupervised, providing inadequate protection from the weather.
    • Medical – not giving a child life-sustaining medicines, over medicating, not obtaining special treatment devices deemed necessary by a physician.
    • Supervision – leaving child/children unattended and leaving child/children in the care of other children too young to protect them (depending upon the maturity of the child).
    • Clothing and good hygiene – dressing children inadequately for weather, persistent skin disorders resulting from improper hygiene.
    • Nutrition – lack of sufficient quantity or quality of food, letting a child consistently complain of hunger and allowing the child to rummage for food.
    • Shelter – having structurally unsafe housing, inadequate heating, and unsanitary housing conditions.

Within a neglect or abuse case there are several phases. Upon a complaint or report, which can be anonymous, Youth Court will hold a Shelter Hearing. It is akin to an emergency hearing. The Youth Court will determine if immediate action needs to be taken. Typically, the next Youth Court determination will be an Adjudication Hearing. This is to determine if the child was neglected or abused. Lastly, youth Court will conduct a Disposition Hearing. This is to determine the final outcome.

Youth Court’s #1 goal is reunification when and where possible. Youth Court cases involving neglect and abuse are not seeking to punish and there could be separate criminal consequences for acts of neglect or abuse for the perpetrator.

The “players” in a Youth Court proceeding are the JudgeYouth Court Prosecutor, Guardian Ad Litem (attorney for the child and sometimes a non-attorney investigator), some Courts now have Parent’s Representatives (attorneys appointed for a parent), or privately hired Attorneys.

Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody attoreny in Mississippi and has handled multiple Youth Court cases throughout Mississippi.

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Prison for NOT Paying Child Support? YES

You have seen the recent news about a local man being arrested and jailed for his refusal to pay Court Ordered Child Support. Now, this is only done after one is initially ordered to pay, doesn’t pay, then is formally requested to pay, given notice, given an opportunity to pay or prove their inability to pay with specificity, and then and only then, jailed as a last resort. In these circumstances, knowing the layers of review, the opportunities afforded by the Court and the fact that everyone had a lawyer (actually multiple lawyers), my sympathy is nil. This is Contempt of Court and ultimately the wrong-doer has the keys to the jail.  All you have to do is pay what you owe and you are free to go.

However, if you still don’t pay, your troubles can multiply.

TITLE 97.  CRIMES  
CHAPTER 5.  OFFENSES AFFECTING CHILDREN
Miss. Code Ann. § 97-5-3  (2016)
§ 97-5-3. Desertion or nonsupport of child under age eighteen
Any parent who shall desert or wilfully neglect or refuse to provide for the support and maintenance of his or her…children…while said…children are under the age of eighteen (18) years shall be guilty of a felony and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished for a first offense by a fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($ 500.00), or by commitment to the custody of the Department of Corrections not more than five (5) years, or both; and for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($ 1,000.00) nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($ 10,000.00), or by commitment to the custody of the Department of Corrections not less than two (2) years nor more than five (5) years, or both, in the discretion of the court.
Prison for not paying child support? Yes. It’s the law.
Matthew Thompson is a Child Custody and Child Support Attorney in Mississippi.
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