Going through a divorce or ending a relationship is never an easy thing to deal with, but these problems only become more trying and frustrating when a child or multiple children are involved. Child custody issues are often some of the most emotional, heart breaking, and frustrating to deal with, especially if both parents do not see eye to eye, and therefore a family court judge is tasked with deciding a custody arrangement for them. When this happens, a Mississippi family court official will always attempt to create an arrangement that has the best interests of the child at heart.
Best Interests of a Child Standard in Mississippi
When a judge is tasked with creating a child custody arrangement during a divorce case or a case where the child’s parents were never married, he or she is bound to keep the best interests of the child in focus. State law in Mississippi assumes at the beginning of a case that having both parents equally involved in their children’s lives is always in their best interest, and the development of the case will stem from this ideal and take many factors into consideration.
Should it be determined that a joint custody agreement and equal contact with both parents is not in the best interests of the child, the judge will then explore other custody options for the case, which may include variations in legal custody, physical custody, or visitation. Many factors play a role in determining who should be the child’s primary caregiver, whether the parents should share joint legal custody, and the amount of visitation the non-custodial parent should receive.
Factors Considered During Child Custody Cases in Mississippi
When it comes to arranging a child custody agreement in the state of Mississippi, the judge needs to consider a number of different factors, most of them relevant to both parents’ parenting skills. Additionally, Mississippi state law specifies some important factors that the judge needs to consider as well, including those that revolve around the emotional and developmental needs of the child at the center of the case. Some of these factors include:
- Emotional ties between the child and both of the parents
- The ability, desire, and skill each parent has to being a good caregiver for the child
- The morality and moral fitness of each parent
- The stability of the living situation with each parent
- The financial stability of each parent
The court system also prefers to keep continuity within children’s lives, so it will take time to examine which, if either, parent was the primary caregiver before the custody case, as well as the factors that contribute to the child adjusting well to a new living environment including the child’s home, community and school. Some additional factors that the family court judge considers in these types of cases includes:
- Age of both parents
- Health of both parents
- Age of child
- Health of child
- Sex of the child
- Job responsibilities/commitments of each parent
Unlike some other states, there is no requirement for a Mississippi family court judge to give equal merit to all factors – it is possible for a judge to choose one or two factors they consider to be the most important in the case and make a final decision based around those two factors. In addition to the case law that helps determine important factors, there are also other considerations deemed important by the state of Mississippi in terms of child custody cases, including:
- Continuity of important relationships
- Keeping siblings together
- Children’s continued positive relationship with both parents
Finally, if children are 12 years of age or older, the judge will hear their preferences for who they would like to reside with and take this desire into consideration. Judges often look unfavorably on parents who actively interfere with the child’s relationship with the other parent, which can often happen in heated custody cases. It is possible that, as a result of this negative action, the judge will grant that parent less time with the child in order to help foster positive relationships.
Child Custody Modification in Mississippi
Should at any point there be a need to make an adjustment or modification to a child custody agreement, the parents need to follow the proper legal channels to have this modification completed. Since a child custody agreement is a legally enforceable agreement, any changes to this agreement need to be approved by a Mississippi family court judge. Often times, if both parents are in agreement with the proposed changes, it is much easier for the judge to approve the changes and make them legally binding, given they are in the best interests of the child.
On the other hand, should the parents not agree to the proposed changes, they will likely need to have a court hearing with the judge in order for both sides of the argument to be heard. In the end, the parent requesting the modification to the custody agreement bears all of the burden of proof in order to convince the judge to rule in his or her favor. The judge considers both arguments and reevaluates all the factors in the case before making a final decision. Ultimately, that decision will be one that maintains the standards set for the best interests of the child involved in the case.
Child Custody and Relocation in Mississippi
Consistency and stability are held in high regard when it comes to the best interests of children in a custody case, so relocation is often a request that is hard for judges to make a decision on. Just like modification requests, relocation requests need to go through the family court system and, if both parents are in agreement and the relocation benefits the children, it is much easier to have this type of request approved. But, when one parent wishes to relocate with the children and the other parent is contesting the move, the change to the child custody agreement becomes more complicated.
Relocation requests are most often an issue when one parent has physical custody of the children and is moving a long distance away from the other parent’s current residence, making it harder for the parent to see the children. In this case, the parent who wishes to relocate needs to prove to the family court system that the move will be beneficial for the children and provide them with a better quality of life in some way. Some of the factors the judge considers when reviewing a relocation request includes:
- The reasons given for the relocation
- The reasons given for contesting the relocation
- The relationship between the children and both parents
- The proposed benefits to the children due to the relocation
- The availability and cost of alternative communication between the children and the parent who is not relocating