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Gulfport Family Law Blog

Custody disputes and the preferences of a teen

When a couple ends their marriage, many different hurdles surface. Some couples have difficulty due to financial issues, while others have an especially hard time dealing with custody matters. Moreover, child custody issues vary from one family to the next and there are certain factors that have a significant impact on how custody is awarded. For example, if a custody dispute is centered around a teenager, his or her preferences sometimes play an important role in how a court decides to award custody.

Courts take many factors into consideration with respect to making custody decisions that serve a child's best interests. The preferences of a child is one such factor and when a child is older, their ability to make these important decisions is often given more credence. However, the judge will likely review the child's rationale and their ability to make sound decisions that protect their interests. Unfortunately, child custody issues are tricky for many families, especially when teens are involved.

Do you need a QDRO?

When you get a divorce, the State of Mississippi requires that you and your spouse divide your marital assets between you in a fair and equitable manner. But you can divide some assets much more easily than others. For instance, advises that dividing up your respective retirement or pension plan benefits can prove tricky indeed.

If either you or your spouse has a retirement or pension plan covered by ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, you likely will need a qualified domestic relations order, a/k/a QDRO, in addition to your divorce decree. Keep in mind that while the divorce court issues the QDRO, the retirement or pension plan administrator must approve it. You should therefore contact the plan administrator as soon as possible so (s)he can send you a sample QDRO form that meets all of the plan’s terms and specifications.

What does Mississippi law say about custody and visitation?

As you contemplate divorce, your children’s custody and visitation arrangements likely form one of your major concerns. You will be glad to know that the State of Mississippi is just as concerned about your children as you are. Consequently, we have laws that address virtually every type of custody and the situations under which each prevail.

The Mississippi Bar Association explains that as in virtually all other states, Mississippi puts the best interests of the child first and foremost when determining custody and visitation. Having said that, however, Mississippi law contains the following three custody presumptions:

  1. Mississippi treats natural (biological) parents equally; neither the mother nor the father has any special custody rights or privileges.
  2. Mississippi favors joint custody whenever both parents request it.
  3. Mississippi does not grant custody to an abusive parent unless (s)he can successfully rebut this presumption.

How easy is it to adopt in Mississippi?

If you desire to adopt a child in Mississippi, you will be glad to know that adoption is fairly simple and straightforward in our state. Nor does Mississippi put a lot of restrictions on potential adoptive parents.

For instance, American Adoptions explains that no restrictions apply to any of the following:

  • Your marital status
  • Your sexual orientation
  • Your age, assuming you are an adult

Can I keep my dog after my divorce?

Any person who has a dog, cat or other pet knows just how special these animals can become and the large role a pet can play in their lives. More and more, pets are considered and treated as essential members of the family, not as pieces of property. One of the times this comes into play significantly is when a married couple gets a divorce. Several couples find themselves struggling with who will keep the dog or other pet after their marriage has fallen apart.

This trend is not new. The Pew Trusts explained that study conducted some six years ago by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found a jump by 22% in the number of divorce cases in which pet custody was a significant topic.

When is it appropriate to modify a visitation agreement?

When you are going through a divorce, one of the things you will need to prepare for is to arrange a visitation agreement with your spouse on behalf of your children. A functional agreement will provide some flexibility to both parties to allow both of you adequate opportunities to maintain and strengthen relationships with your children. Should you or your spouse decide to relocate outside of Mississippi, modifications may need to be made to the original arrangement. 

According to, there are also other reasons besides relocation that could require you to request that changes be made to the original terms. If you have been committed to following the visitation schedule, but are lacking support or even compliance from your former spouse, it is appropriate to request that a modification be made. Likewise, if you have suspicions or evidence that your children are being mistreated or are endangered when spending time with your ex, you should absolutely ask for changes to be made. Other life-altering changes including the death of a family member, the remarriage of you or your spouse, the growth of your children and even changes to your career could also be reasons to request a modification. 

Getting the right information in an uncontested divorce

Despite long-held beliefs to the contrary, not all divorce cases in Mississippi are contentious and filled with seemingly endless dispute. Some couples who are at the end of a marriage can agree on the key issues and have an "uncontested" divorce. A "contested" divorce is commonly viewed as comparable to a courtroom drama. While it might not be as it is on television, the factors in dispute can lead to a drawn-out process to settle the case. An uncontested divorce seeks to avoid this.

However, that does not necessarily mean that the parties should move forward without getting the right legal information. While it might sound unusual, the right legal information may be even more essential in an uncontested divorce. When there is little-to-no rancor and disagreement, making sure all the legal requirements are followed and that there are no underlying concerns can avoid any problems arising in the future to place the couple at odds. Knowing how to get an uncontested divorce is imperative.

Understanding income withholding for child support

Parents are required to make their child support payments on time and in full. For Mississippi parents who have a child support order, it is possible that their employer will need to withhold income so the payments can be made. For the custodial parent and the supporting parent, it is important to understand how much can be withheld from the employee's pay to account for child support. It is also essential to know when there is a lump sum payment made to the employee.

If an employer is ordered to withhold pay from an employee's wages so child support can be paid, there is a maximum amount that can be withheld. The Consumer Credit Protection Act protects employees in these circumstances. The law applies to those who are paying alimony and child support. If the person who is obligated to pay, known as the obligor, is having income withheld, it is limited to half their disposable earnings if he or she resides with a second family and provides support to them; it is 60 percent if there is no support paid to a second family. The amount will be 55 percent for the person supporting a second family and 65 percent if there is no support to a second family if the person is behind on support for 12 weeks or more.

Research shows divorce rates increase in the new year

Mississippi couples who are experiencing marital turmoil might hit the breaking point at any time. A range of issues can spark dispute in marriage. Once the personal and emotional factors reach a certain juncture, the end of a marriage is the only viable solution. While it might seem counterintuitive for there to be statistical factors in divorce filings, studies indicate that there are specific times of year when couples will decide to take that next step and file for divorce. Regardless, it may be useful to have legal help with the process.

According to research, January is a common month in which people decide to file for divorce. Designated with the moniker "divorce month," January is viewed as a time when the combination of disputes and disagreements reaches its crescendo and people have chosen to part ways as a couple. The holidays and the accompanying pressure is viewed as a determinative factor in the surge in filings. This information largely comes from legal professionals, but other sources verify it.

What are USFSPA authorized deductions under military family law?

For military members and former military members in Mississippi, family law matters will differ from what how they are addressed for civilians. There are certain rules regarding how much a military member or a retired military member will be required to pay the former spouse as part of the divorce settlement and it is dictated by their retirement pay amount.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act (USFSPA) sets limits on how much of a retired service member's disposable income can be paid to the former spouse. There are also authorized deductions. Understanding these rules is imperative in military divorce as is having legal assistance from a law firm experienced in military family cases.