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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.

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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 you can learn more about by visiting Family Law University.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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