What Mississippi parents need to know about divorce and child custody

Few questions weigh as heavily on the minds of divorcing parents as how their relationships with their children may be affected by the decision to end a marriage. Whether they have already decided to move forward with the divorce or are merely weighing their options, Mississippi parents may find it helpful to learn more about the laws that apply to these important issues and what factors are likely to affect the outcome of a child custody determination.

The best interests of the child

The guiding principle in any Mississippi child custody case is that judges must act according to the best interests of the child or children involved. This means that judges in Mississippi are bound by law to award child custody and visitation rights in whatever way they determine will be best for the child - which is not always the same as what is best for the parents or any other parties involved.

To determine a child's best interests in a Mississippi child custody case, a family court judge may consider any relevant factors, such as the child's age and relationship with each parent, as well as the parents' respective abilities to care for and provide for the child after the divorce. Other factors, such as a history of domestic violence or drug abuse by either parent, will also be considered where applicable.

Types of child custody in Mississippi

Many people who have never experienced divorce firsthand are not aware that child custody is actually made up of two separate components: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody means living with a child and caring for him or her on a day-to-day basis. Legal custody, on the other hand, means making important decisions that affect the child, such as where he or she will go to school or what medical care he or she will receive.

In Mississippi, each type of child custody may be shared jointly by both parents or retained solely by one parent. State law provides that joint physical and legal custody is presumed to be in the best interests of the child so long as both parents are in agreement.

Despite this presumption, however, there are a number of situations in which this may not be the case. For example, if the parents do not agree to joint custody, or if there is a history of domestic violence by either parent, a court may award one parent with sole legal and/or physical custody. In most cases, but not always, the non-custodial parent will receive visitation rights in the event that the judge orders sole custody.

Call a lawyer to learn more

To learn more about child custody laws and other legal issues affecting parents during divorce in Mississippi, get in touch with an experienced family law attorney in your area.