In Mississippi, child custody arrangements are designed with the best interests of the child in mind. As a parent, it can be difficult to reconcile what you think is best for your child with what a family law judge says is best. Understanding the court’s motives for making a determination can help you and your divorce lawyer work out a strong plan that not only meets your needs and protects your child, but helps you understand why some decisions are made the way they are.
- The courts presume parental equality. Under Mississippi law, both you and your child’s other natural parent are equally entitled to custody of your child. The presumption, as the court calls it, used to lie with the mother; but beginning in 1983, Mississippi courts recognized “the joint natural guardians of their minor children … are equally charged with their care, nurture, welfare, and education, and the care and management of their estates.”
- A history of family violence can keep you away from your child. If one parent is accused/convicted of a serious act of violence against a family member, or a pattern of dangerous or violent behavior, then the court will likely grant custody to the other non-violent parent.
- Joint custody is preferable to sole custody. Generally, the courts want parents to seek joint custody, especially since courts presume parental equality. If you and your child’s other parent are able to come to an agreement about co-parenting your child, the courts are likely to approve your plan – provided, of course, that both of you agree and that the plan you created puts the welfare of your child first.
- Siblings should stay together. Unless there is a good reason to separate siblings, the courts will generally try to keep them together. There are exceptions, of course, as with any rule, but most often the court will keep your children together if it can.
- You cannot interfere with your child’s relationship to your spouse. It can be hard to keep quiet when you are angry, we know. If you attempt to hurt the relationship between your child and your ex, though, you could lose custody of your child. This destruction of the parent-child relationship is called “parental alienation syndrome,” when one parent has created a rift between the child and other parent. Especially when the child is present, it is important to keep a level head and leave your feelings about that other parent unsaid. If you believe that your ex is being abusive in some way, discuss your concerns with your attorney or, in an emergency, a police officer.
Factors including income, health, fitness of the parent, school systems and location all come into play when the court determines custody. With all that goes into a custody determination, it is important that you retain a skilled Mississippi family law attorney to represent you.
For more information about how child custody works in Mississippi, please contact Taylor Jones Taylor. We represent clients in Southaven, Olive Branch, Hernando and other surrounding areas in Northwest Mississippi.