Here in Mississippi, the family law courts encourage co-parenting whenever possible. The guiding principle of child custody, as in other states, is what is best for the children. In most cases, this means that they continue to have a relationship with both parents.
But while both parents may have legal custody of the children, the courts may grant physical custody to only one parent.
What is the difference?
Joint legal custody in Mississippi means that both parents have a say in the children’s upbringing and the decisions that affect their lives. For instance, the parents have to agree on which religion the children will follow (if any). They must negotiate matters related to the kids’ education and health care.
If the court awards one parent sole custody, that parent is the only one who makes the parenting decisions.
Physical custody refers to where the child will live. A parent with joint legal custody may not have physical custody, although they may enjoy liberal visitation with their kids.
No presumptive custody
Not so long ago, the Mississippi courts tended to automatically award custody to the mothers. However, as with other state courts all over the country, that is no longer the case. Unless one parent is deemed to be unfit in the eyes of the court, both presumably can be fully involved in their children’s lives after a divorce.
How physical custody is determined
Courts look at the following when deciding where the kids will live:
- Both parent’s physical and mental health, as well as the health of the children
- Each parent’s ability to financially and physically care for the kids
- The bond between each parent and their children
- How willing each parent is to foster a loving relationship between the kids and their other parent
- The children’s preference (when they are old and mature enough to express it)
The parenting plan
When parents reach an accord, they can submit a parenting plan to the court for approval. Otherwise, the fate of their children’s custody rests with the court.