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A Mississippi child custody primer

Divorce is full of thorny and emotional issues. This is why divorce is often such a contentious process for couples in Gulfport. Perhaps the most contentious issue for some going through a divorce is child custody. Child custody deals with the sensitive issues of where a child will live and who will have the power to make important decisions on behalf of the child. Although child custody is known as a divorce issue, it can also crop up when unmarried couples choose to separate.

In Mississippi, each parent has equal rights to the child. This means that judges consider other factors when deciding how much parenting time each parent should have. These factors include the health of the child, who was the primary caregiver before the divorce or separation, the sex of the child, each parent's willingness to care for the child, each parent's parenting skills, the emotional relationship between the parent and the child and each parent's moral fitness. There are other considerations as well. The judge's main concern when making custody determinations is the best interests of the child.

Children 12 years of age and older can tell the judge their preference for child custody. Although a judge can consider the child's preference, the judge is not required to comply with it when determining child custody.

Judges can award legal and physical custody to one or both parents. Legal custody gives a parent the decision-making authority concerning the child's health, education and welfare. Physical custody is which parent the child actually lives with. Legal and physical custody can be awarded jointly or to one parent only. If one parent receives sole physical and legal custody, the other will be awarded parenting time if it is in the child's best interest.

Source: The Mississippi Bar, "Child Custody: Considering the Best Interest of the Child," accessed on Nov. 12, 2017

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