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:
- Mississippi treats natural (biological) parents equally; neither the mother nor the father has any special custody rights or privileges.
- Mississippi favors joint custody whenever both parents request it.
- Mississippi does not grant custody to an abusive parent unless (s)he can successfully rebut this presumption.
Should you and your spouse fail to agree on a custody and visitation plan, the court will take the following factors into consideration:
- The age, sex and health of your respective children
- Your age and health and those of your spouse
- Which of you exhibited the better parenting skills during your marriage
- Which of you appears to have the better child-rearing environment based on your skills, job commitments, inclinations, etc.
- Which of you appears to have the better emotional connection with your children
- Whether or not your children themselves express a custody preference, assuming they are age 12 or older
In general, the noncustodial parent has the right to reasonable visitation, defined as sufficient time to maintain a significant relationship with the children. Usually this means that (s)he gets the children two weekends a months and for five weeks during the summer. Other factors, however, may come into play, such as military deployment, excessive distance between your home and that of your former spouse, etc.