Nothing is more important to us than our children. Our attorneys understand this and will fight for your children’s best interests. Unlike alimony and property division, child custody disputes often arise in situations other than divorce such as annulment proceedings, suits for separate maintenance, petitions for custody by unmarried parents, paternity actions, adoption and termination of parental rights proceedings, and child abuse proceedings. Parties are free to agree on child custody; however, if they cannot agree, then the court will decide for them.
Child custody is divided into two categories: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody concerns the time period the child resides with or is under the care and supervision of one of the parents. Legal custody concerns the decision making rights related to a child’s education, health and welfare. The court may award joint physical and legal custody meaning both parents are jointly responsible, or it may award one parent physical custody and one parent legal custody. Further, the court may award joint legal custody to both parents with sole physical custody in one parent or vice-versa. In legal jargon, the parent without physical custody is known as the non-custodial parent.
In Mississippi, both parents are presumed to be equally entitled to custody of their children; however, the polestar consideration in determining child custody is “the best interests of the child.” With this in mind, Mississippi courts consider the following non-exhaustive factors when determining child custody. (1) the child’s age, (2) health, and sex of the child, (3) which parent provided continuing care for the child prior to separation, (4) parenting skills, (5) which parent has the willingness and capacity to provide primary child care, (6) both parent’s employment responsibilities, (7) the parents age, and physical and mental health, (8) emotional bonds between the parent and child, (9) the child’s school and community record, (10) the child’s parental preference if the child is twelve years of age or older, (11) the stability of the home environment and employment of each parent, (12) the parent’s moral fitness, and (13) other factors the court deems relevant to the parent-child relationship.
In child custody actions, it is always paramount to the Courts what serves as the best interest of the minor child(ren). When determining custody the chancellors must apply the Albright factors. Albright v. Albright, 437 So. 2d 1003, 1005 (Miss. 1983) Those factors can be found in this link.
In some circumstances, the chancellors may appoint an attorney to serve as Guardian ad Litem over your child(ren). The Guardian ad Litem is appointed by the court to make recommendations and submit reports that would reflect the best interest of the minor child(ren). Guardian ad Litems do not represent the interest of either parent, only the child(ren).