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Madison County Child Custody Attorneys
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When a divorcing couple has children together, the matter of custody is often the most important issue in the minds of the parents. It can also be the most emotional, conflict-laden issue to be decided. At the Hancock Law Firm, we know your children come first, and we work hard to negotiate a practical arrangement that meets you and your child’s needs. When custody matters cannot be resolved amicably, our family law team fights to make sure any custody decision is fair and reasonable and that your voice is heard and respected.
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Mississippi Child Custody Laws
There are many factors that a judge considers in making a custody determination in Mississippi, but the one that trumps all the others and is always foremost in the judge’s mind is what is in the best interest of the child.
While joint or shared custody is normally favored, there are many issues that may lead to one parent having primary custody while the other parent has only visitation rights or even to one parent having sole custody of the child. It is vital that you as a parent are well-represented in this process, so that the judge has a true and accurate picture of your fitness as a parent and what custodial arrangement will be in the child’s best interest.
Both parents go into a custody hearing with equal rights to custody. Factors which may influence the judge’s decision in making one parent the primary custodial parent include:
- The child’s sex/gender
- The health of the child
- Which parent was the child’s primary caregiver during marriage
- The parenting skills of each parent
- Each parent’s willingness to care for the child
- The emotional ties between parent and child/children
- A parent’s perceived moral fitness
- The preference of the child (if 12 years old or older)
Physical vs. Legal Custody
The judge in a Mississippi divorce or child custody hearing will decide two separate aspects of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody of course refers to the actual physical possession of the child, i.e. whom the child lives with. Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to the legal right and responsibility to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing in areas such as educational decisions, medical and health care decisions, and other aspects of a child’s welfare, from extracurricular activities to matters of religion.
The court can grant custody jointly to both parents or to one parent alone; physical and legal custody do not have to be granted together. One parent could have sole physical custody with legal custody shared, or vice versa. Normally, if the judge grants both physical and legal custody to one parent, the other will be given visitation rights. Again, this decision is subject to what the judge believes is in the best interest of the child.
Grandparents’ Rights in Mississippi
In Mississippi, grandparents can legally request visitation rights with their grandchildren:
- before or after divorce, separation, or one parent’s death
- if they provided financial support for the child for at least six months, or
- if they had frequent visitation, including overnight stays, for at least one year.
Experienced Attorneys in Mississippi Child Custody Cases
Custody decisions are decided in court based on the evidence presented and arguments made by the parties’ attorneys in a hearing before the judge. Make sure you are represented by a dedicated and experienced attorney who can tell your story to the judge and see to it that your rights and interests are fairly represented in the child custody determination.
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