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Mississippi Child Custody
Child Custody in Mississippi

According to the Mississippi Code, Title 93, Section 93-5-24< "[i] If the parents do not mutually agree on matters concerning child custody, the Mississippi family court shall award custody based on the best interests of the child."

Mississippi child custody laws protect the best interests of the child when parents divorce. Mississippi wants divorcing parents to write a parenting plan to help them in divorced parenting. The court decides child custody, visitation rights, and child support issues when the parents cannot.

As governed by child custody laws, Mississippi courts decide whether or not joint custody may be awarded to parents. Custody arrangements may be modified when parents petition for changes and are subject to court approval.

Under Mississippi law, the judge must consider the child's overall best interest in custody arrangements. The judge must balance many factors, including the child's age, primary caregiver status, parenting skills, willingness to parent, moral fitness, immoral conduct and the emotional ties between the child and each parent. Additionally, the judge can consider factors such as parents' employment, time spent away from home, financial circumstances, religions and lifestyles.

Under child custody laws in Mississippi, the court cannot make presumptions. It must consider all the relevant factors that may affect the child's welfare. The court considers:

  • the child's wishes or preferences, provided that he or she is mature enough to make such claims, generally if he or she is over 12 years of age.
  • the nature or quality of the parents' relationship with the child;
  • the mental and physical health of the individuals involved in the proceedings;
  • any history of domestic violence, child abuse, or negligence (which the court Investigates);
  • The parents' relationship to each other, work schedules, and availability (because the parent-child relationship is crucial in evaluating child custody cases); and
  • The parents' parenting and discipline styles.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Mississippi courts have the right to require divorcing parents with minor children to complete a parenting class before granting a divorce. It is the Judge's discretion, so he or she may require you to take a parenting class. Whether or not you are required to do so, we highly recommend taking the Children In Between parenting class for the benefit of your child(ren).

Joint Custody Preference

Mississippi law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. If the court awards joint custody, both parents must jointly make decisions concerning the child's health, education and medical needs. The judge decides physical custody, which determines where the child will live, and legal custody, which establishes who can make parenting decisions. The Mississippi court may award:

  • joint physical and legal custody to both parents;
  • joint physical custody to both parents and legal custody to one parent;
  • joint legal custody to both parents and physical custody to one parent;
  • and physical and legal custody to one parent.
  • The judge can require parents to share both types of custody or award one or both types of custody to just one parent.

    With a joint custody arrangement, parents share legal custody, which means that both parents have the right to make decisions regarding the child's upbringing.

    One parent may have primary custody, where the child lives with him or her for the majority of time, but if the parents share joint custody, the child resides with the other parent for a considerable amount of time.

    The Mississippi court assumes that joint custody is in the best interests of the child. Mississippi may modify a joint custody award if a party presents evidence of a material change of circumstances.

    If a divorce is achieved due to irreconcilable differences, custody may be granted if both parents request joint custody.

    Third Party Custody

    In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. Upon the court's discretion, a third party may be awarded with custodianship, provided that both parents are not capable of taking care of the child and that the third party can and would.

    The court must have a reason to prefer a third-party to the parents.

    Parental Conduct

    In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. A Mississippi court presumes that a person who has been convicted of family violence should not have custody of a child. However, a court considers whether:

    • the alleged abuser has completed a batterer's treatment program;
    • the alleged abuser has completed an appropriate parenting class;
    • the alleged abuser has completed an alcohol or drug treatment program, if appropriate; and
    • the alleged abuser has committed any further acts of violence.

    The court examines each parent's circumstances to determine if both are capable of providing a stable environment for the child.

    Though joint custody is favorable, there are instances that this is not beneficial for the child, especially in cases where the welfare of the child is at risk. In the case of a history of family violence, the court may order supervised visitation, or the exchange of a child in a protected setting, or a prohibition of overnight visitation.

    Mississippi courts will terminate an individual's parental rights under extreme circumstances, such as abandonment, child abuse or specific criminal offenses. As a result, the parent no longer has a legal relationship with the child and cannot maintain any parental rights, including child custody.

    According to the Mississippi Bar Association, a judge can consider the child's preference for custody if the child is over 12 years of age, but is not bound to follow that preference.

    Visitation

    The Mississippi courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. Non-custodial parents may still be able to spend time with their children. Mississippi's Access and Visitation Program provides family mediation and supervised visitation services.

    The courts can establish visitation, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

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