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Determining child custody in Mississippi

Perhaps the most emotionally draining issue in any divorce in Mississippi is the question of child custody. Mississippi gives chancellors great discretion in awarding legal and physical custody of minor children, but the law also provides important guidelines for determining which parent should be awarded physical or legal custody of the couple's children.

The overriding consideration in determining questions of child custody is the best interests of the child. Any decision by the court must satisfy this standard. The court has several choices: joint physical and legal custody in which both parents share custodial and legal rights to act on behalf of their children; separate physical and legal custody to either parent; joint physical custody to both parents and separate legal custody to either parent; and joint legal custody to both parents and separate physical custody to one parent.

While the court has the ultimate power to rule on the question of child custody, the parents have the option to submit an agreement to the court in which they have jointly decided how these questions should be resolved. If the parents agree to joint custody, the court must presume that joint custody is in the best interests of all minor children of the marriage. Resolving child custody issues in a joint parental agreement is perhaps the easiest way to avoid unnecessary conflict during the divorce proceeding; the parents are free to work out their own solution to the many issues involving the education and welfare of their children, subject only to the court's overall approval of the agreement.

Anyone contemplating a divorce that will involve custody of minor children may wish to consider seeking the advice of an experienced family lawyer. A knowledgeable attorney can provide advice on possible solutions for legal and physical custody and can also aid in the negotiation and drafting of a joint agreement on custody issues.

Source: Mississippi Code Ann. §93-5-24, accessed on May 28, 2017

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