Jackson, Mississippi Child Custody Lawyer and Divorce Attorney: Protect Your Family and Get Peace of Mind
When parents divorce, the divorce decree will specify with whom the divorcing couple’s children will live the majority of the time. This is known as physical custody. In many situations, physical custody is awarded to one parent while the other parent is awarded visitation rights. Just as often, though, both parents are awarded joint legal custody of their children which includes the right to make decisions about their education, health care, religion, and other important matters concerning their welfare. Some divorcing parents opt for a joint custody arrangement, wherein a child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. Split custody may occur when siblings remain with different parents after a divorce.
Sometimes, parents work out these arrangements between themselves, either voluntarily or with the assistance of their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach an amicable resolution, the court will intervene and make a decision based on the child’s best interests. In Mississippi, the chancery courts can award custody to one or both parents, or even to a third-party, as stipulated in the Mississippi Code, Title 93, Section 93-5-24.
One of the most important factors the court considers when determining custody is which parent has been the child’s primary caretaker, assuming most of the following responsibilities: bathing, grooming, dressing, feeding, purchasing and washing clothes, making health care arrangements, fostering participation in extracurricular activities, teaching, etc. While in the past, this has most often resulted in a mother being granted custody. However, in Mississippi, it is now presumed that mothers and fathers are equally entitled to the custody of their children.
Factors the Court May Consider for Child Custody in Mississippi
Other factors the court may consider include those enumerated in the 1983 Mississippi Supreme Court case of Albright v. Albright, and known as the Albright Factors:
- The age, health, and sex of child
- If older than 12 years – the wishes of the child
- The nature or quality of the parents’ relationship with the child
- The parenting skills of each parent
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- Any religious, cultural, financial, or employment considerations
- The child’s need for a stable home environment
- The moral fitness of the parents
- The child’s ties to school and community
- Any evidence of physical or emotional abuse proffered by a parent
- Any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent
- Any other factors the court believes is relevant to the parent/child relationship
Overall, the polestar consideration for the court when making a custody determination is the child’s best interest.
Common Child Custody Arrangements
A few of the more common arrangements for custody include the following:
Joint legal and physical custody
This is where parents share decision-making responsibility and have equal (or close to equal) parenting time with their children.
Joint legal custody
In this situation, one parent has sole physical custody and the other having the right to regular visitation (e.g., alternating weekends, summers, some holidays).
Joint physical custody
In this instance, one parent has legal custody and the right to make all decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
Sole legal and physical custody
Sole legal and physical custody is given to one parent, with the other parent having the right to regular visitation (e.g., alternating weekends, summers, some holidays).
Courts in Mississippi Often Favor Joint Custody
Of the above, Mississippi courts are most in favor of joint custody upon request of the parents, deeming that that arrangement is presumed to be in the best interests of the child. Joint physical custody allows each parent to have significant, although not necessarily equal, time with a child. Joint physical custody may be structured in a variety of ways. Time may be divided on a weekly basis or by alternating weeks, months, half-years, or even years.
Joint custody requires an ability to cooperate. Proximity is also important, and, as a general rule, joint physical custody is feasible only if the parties live within a reasonable distance of one another. However, parents may share joint legal custody successfully, even if they live a great distance apart. A court’s decree of joint custody can be modified without requiring proof that one of the parents is providing inadequate care. The triggering event is more likely to be a change that makes the arrangement unworkable, such as one parent’s relocation or other serious conflict.
Child Custody Modifications
A court’s decree of sole custody can be modified if there is a material change of circumstances in the home of the custodial parent that adversely affects the child, and the non-custodial parent can provide a more suitable home environment. Similarly, the court can modify a visitation order if the petitioner proves that it is not working and is not in the child’s best interest. Visitation can always be restricted when a parent’s behavior places a child in danger.
Get An Attorney Consultation Regarding Your Divorce and/or Child Custody Matters
If you are divorcing and seeking custody of your child, or have any other questions regarding child custody, and/or visitation rights, it is critical that you retain the services of an experienced family law attorney. The issues of child custody are complex and difficult to navigate. The law office of Maley & Nicholas has the knowledge and expertise to advise you in these matters and represent your best interests. Call us to schedule a consultation with an attorney.