What does the court consider when determining child custody? The most important factor is the best interests of the children. Other factors are: (1) age, health, and sex of the children; (2) continuity of care prior to the separation; (3) parenting skills and willingness and capacity to provide primary childcare; (4) employment of the parent and responsibilities of that employment; (5) physical and mental health and age of the parents; (6) emotional ties of the parent and the children; (7) moral fitness of the parents; (8) the home, school, and community record of the children; (9) the preference of the children at the age of twelve; (10) stability of home and employment of each parent; (11) other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship. The court may award physical and legal custody to one parent, to both parents jointly, or it may award physical custody to one parent and legal custody to the other.
Under Mississippi law, “physical custody” refers to the right to have the children reside with or be under the physical care of the custodial parent. “Legal custody” refers to the decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the children. The court may award physical and legal custody to the parents jointly, individually, or in combination. Joint physical custody allows each parent to have significant periods of physical custody. Joint legal custody requires the parents to share the decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of children. An award of joint legal custody also obligates the parents to exchange information concerning the health, education and welfare of the minor children, and to confer with one another in the exercise of decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority. Regardless of how physical and legal custody is allocated, access to medical, dental and school records may not be denied to a parent on the basis that the parent is not the children’s custodial parent if that parent’s parental rights have not been terminated.
Child custody matters are delicate and understandably emotional. Having worked on child custody for over 30 years, you can trust that Williford, McAllister, Jacobus & White, LLP as your child custody lawyer will handle your case with compassion and sophistication. More on child custody and visitation laws in Mississippi can be found here.