CUSTODY AND VISITATION

What You Need to Know About Child Custody and Visitation in Mississippi

There are two types of custody in Mississippi- legal and physical. Legal custody is the cerebral form of custody. It entails the decision-making and thinking responsibilities of parenting. It involves your children’s health, education, extracurricular activities, religious training and every other decision that a parent makes. Physical custody simply entails with whom the child lives. When weighing custody cases, the best interest of the children is controlling, and the Judge is to consider the list of issues known as the Albright factors.

While our law specifically states there is no advantage given to the mother over the father in child custody situations, in reality the mother will usually have a slight advantage. The paramount consideration is the best interests of the child, and the Judge can award both parents with physical and legal custody or either parent with one or the other form of custody. An award of joint legal custody obligates the parties to exchange information concerning the health, education and welfare of the minor child, and to confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, access to records and information pertaining to a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, dental and school records, shall not be denied to a parent because the parent is not the child’s custodial parent.

There are as many different visitation schedules as there are people with children who get divorced. There is such a thing as standard visitation, but what the “standard” is depends on the county, the lawyers and the judges. We can write a visitation schedule almost anyway conceivable. Most custody situations entail one party having physical custody and the other party having visitation. A typical visitation schedule is every other weekend from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Some lawyers write in terms of first, third and fifth weekends, and mid-week visitation is often included. We like the every other weekend scenario better because we think it is easier. A good way to give the non-custodial parent more time with the children is to move the return time to the following Monday morning and/or pushing the commencement time back to Thursday. Some parents try “week on/week off” visitation schedules, but it takes a very special couple to make this work. Holidays are usually shared from even to odd years, and there is usually a provision for an extended time for visitation during the summer.

Custody Battles

The Albright Factors for Child Custody in Mississippi

  • Age, health and gender of the child.
  • Parent having continuity of care prior to the separation.
  • Parent with best parenting skills and willingness and capacity to provide primary child care.
  • Employment of the parent and responsibilities of that employment.
  • Physical and mental health and age of the parent.
  • Emotional ties of parent to child.
  • Moral fitness of the parent.
  • Home, school and coomunity record of the child.
  • Preference of the child at age sufficient to express a preference.
  • Stability of parent’s home environment and employment of each parent.
  • Relative financial situation of the parents.
  • Difference in religion of the parents.
  • Differences in personal values of the parents.
  • Differences in lifestyle of the parents.
  • Other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship.

Ways to Help Yourself

One of the ways you can help yourself streamline the divorce process is to begin gathering documents which are commonly requested. The easiest way to do this is to obtain a USB storage device and save electronic copies of the following documents. While this list is not comprehensive, it will help you get a good head start on the information exchanges which usually take place during the process of divorce. We recommend you continue to gather new information as it becomes available to you.

  • Copies of your last several paycheck stubs;
  • Copies of your last three annual state and federal income tax returns in full form as filed, including those which were prepared for any business in which you have an ownership interest;
  • The last six monthly account statements for all of your personal and business banking, investment, retirement and/or credit card accounts;
  • A copy of your most recent Social Security Statement;
  • Any financial statement you have prepared for any reason in the last three years;
  • Copies of all insurance policies that are maintained by your or for your benefit;
  • Deeds and debt instruments for all real estate owned by your personally or through any business interest you may have; and
  • Any other document which you believe will help us understand your situation better.

How Can You Help Me?

Here is the way this works, if you would like to talk about a divorce, call our office (601-898-8655) or confidentially submit a basic intake form so our staff can complete a standard conflict check. That’s when we make sure nothing on this end will stand in the way of us being helpful. Then, we will schedule a time for you to talk to one or more of our attorneys to go over your situation.

FAQs

Does a mother always get custody of the children?

No, a mother is not automatically entitled to physical custody of her children. This is a common misconception. Mothers and fathers have equal rights to their children under the law, and courts are not supposed to hold preconceived notions on the issue. Parents can either agree to a custody arrangement, or go to court and let the judge decide. A court’s determination of custody will rely on an analysis of the Albright factors, which are as follows:

  • Age, health and gender of the child.
  • Parent having continuity of care prior to the separation.
  • Parent with best parenting skills and willingness and capacity to provide primary child care.
  • Employment of the parent and responsibilities of that employment.
  • Physical and mental health and age of the parent.
  • Emotional ties of parent to child.
  • Moral fitness of the parent.
  • Home, school and community record of the child.
  • Preference of the child at age sufficient to express a preference.
  • Stability of parent’s home environment and employment of each parent.
  • Relative financial situation of the parents.
  • Difference in religion of the parents.
  • Differences in personal values of the parents.
  • Differences in lifestyle of the parents.
  • Other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship.

What is a “standard” visitation arrangement?

There is actually no such thing as a “standard” visitation arrangement. Custody and visitation schedules are each unique, and can be structured around the families that will be living under them. Perhaps the most common situation is for the noncustodial parent to have visitation with their children every other weekend, with a night of visitation in the middle of the weeks in which they will not have weekend visitation. It is also common for parents to alternate holidays, and for each to have extended periods of time with the children in the summer.

What is a guardian ad litem?

An attorney the court appoints to represent the best interests of a child in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.

What is legal custody?

Legal custody is the “thinking” side of parenting. Decisions like where the child will attend school, where they will go to church, and whether they should go to the doctor are all examples of exercising legal custody. In Mississippi, it is common for parents to have joint legal custody of their children. Under such an arrangement, parents must work together to make joint decisions regarding their children’s welfare. In cases where parents absolutely cannot agree on anything, the court may grant sole legal custody to one of the parents.

What is physical custody?

A parent who has physical custody of their children is the parent with which the children live most of the time. Typically, one parent will have physical custody of the children, while their former spouse will have rights to periods of visitation with the kids. It is possible for parents to share joint physical custody of the children. Under these circumstances, the children typically spend an equal amount of time with each parent.

When my child turns 12, can she choose where she wants to live?

There is a misconception among Mississippians that a child may choose the parent with whom he or she wishes to live upon reaching the age of twelve. This is simply not the case. There must be a showing of material changes in circumstances since the last Order which have had an adverse affect on the child and that their best interest, coupled with the parental selection. While our law on this topic is well settled, many chancellors believe that if a child has made a choice, it should be honored. This is not the law.

Resources Related to Fault-Based Divorce

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