Child custody is the most litigious aspect of family law proceedings in Mississippi, as Jackson child custody lawyer M. Devin Whitt is aware. Chancellors in Mississippi have authority to award custody of minor children in a variety of actions including initial divorce cases and in custody actions between unmarried parents and third parties. In addition, a chancellor awarding custody in one of these cases will have continuing jurisdiction to modify or enforce its order (through contempt proceedings).
In any case where custody of your child is at stake, representation by an experienced child custody attorney in the Jackson area is critical to protect the best interests of your child and ensure that your fundamental right to make decisions that will guide your child's life is protected. A critical point to remember is that once custody of a child is lost, it is often very hard to recover. Each case is special with varying facts and children who have different or sometimes special needs. Moreover, your case must be handled in such a professional and discrete manner as to minimize the child's exposure to the dispute between parents. I encourage you to read the short discussion below relating to child custody and support in Mississippi.
Types of Child Custody
In Mississippi, there are two types of child custody: (1) physical custody, and (2) legal custody. Physical custody is the period of time in which a child resides with one of the parents. On the other hand, legal custody refers to the right to make decisions relating to the health, education and welfare of your child.
Ways Custody may be Split
There are a variety of ways that child custody may be awarded in Mississippi. Both physical and legal custody may be awarded solely to one parent or parents may be made joint physical and legal custodians. Joint legal custody means that parents share decision-making rights with regard to the child. When joint physical custody is awarded, a child will spend a significant time with both parents. A court may award joint physical and legal custody, joint legal custody with sole physical custody in one parent, joint physical custody with sole legal custody in one parent or physical and legal custody to either parent. Where a home has more than one child, a court may also order split custody, though there is a strong preference for keeping siblings in the same home in Mississippi. Jackson child custody attorney M. Devin Whitt can help you advocate for your rights throughout this process.
Which Parent Gets Custody
In Mississippi, it is now presumed that mothers and fathers are equally entitled to custody of their children. In addition to the presumption of equality, other presumptions also directly influence custody actions in Mississippi. These include the presumption in favor of a natural parent, the presumption against custody to a violent parent, and the presumption in favor of joint custody upon request by both parents. It is important to remember that the polestar consideration in custody cases is the "best interests and welfare of the child". Chancellors in Mississippi always determine custody based on this "best interests" approach or test. Jackson child custody lawyer M. Devin Whitt can help you understand the factors that will be considered.
So how exactly does a court determine what is in the best interests of your child when it comes to custody? This is a question that is fair to ask but often difficult answer. In Albright v. Albright, the Mississippi Supreme Court adopted twelve factors to use in weighing what is in the best interests of a child when determining which parent should have custody. These factors are as follows:
- Age, health and sex of child;
- Continuing care of child prior to (and after) separation;
- Parenting skills of each parent;
- Capacity to provide child care and employment responsibilities of parents;
- Physical and mental health and age of parents;
- Alcohol and drug use;
- Emotional ties of the parent and child;
- Moral fitness;
- Home, school and community record of child;
- Preference of a child twelve or older;
- Stability of the home environment and employment of each parent; and,
- Other relevant factors that should be considered in best interests of child.
When determining custody, my experience is that a court will first apply the presumptions discussed above. If the presumptions do not decide the custody issue, then the court will engage in a thorough Albright analysis to determine which parent(s) should be awarded custody and why. If you are seeking custody of your child, it is critical that you retain a child custody attorney in the Jackson area who will be prepared to elicit facts from you and any witnesses to zealously advocate your custody case under Albright.
As an experienced Jackson child custody attorney, I will be on your side to navigate the complex issues of child custody and support, zealously protect your interests, and offer direct, meaningful legal advice designed to achieve your desired results. I have litigated these custody and support cases throughout Mississippi and have the capability and resolve to guide you through your family crisis should you need assistance. Should you need professional, aggressive representation in child custody, support, modification, contempt or other family law matters, please contact my firm, The Law Offices of M. Devin Whitt, PLLC, at 601-607-5055.