There’s no point in having the children express their wish to live with you as Mississippi courts do not have to take their will into consideration.
The divorce rate in Mississippi has been steadily declining for the past 10 years, but there are still plenty of couples who decide to call it quits and go their separate ways. The question is – what happens with the children? There are basically two options – the parents can come to an agreement and prepare a parenting plan, or they can leave that to a judge.
If you talk to experienced Mississippi child custody lawyers they will advise you to leave your anger and frustrations behind and discuss with your former partner what’s best for the children. The point is you know your family’s situation better than a judge ever will so you have a better understanding of what would or would not work for you.
When the two of you sit down with a child custody lawyer in Jackson or anywhere else in the state, you’ll have to decide on two issues – physical custody and legal custody. Either of them can be sole or joint custody.
Let’s see what each of them implies.
Physical custody refers to where the children will live. If the circumstances allow it, you can choose joint physical custody and both parents will get to spend roughly the same amount of time with the kids. Something like two weeks with one parent and the other two with the other one. Or whatever works for you.
If you want sole physical custody of the children, that doesn’t mean you can exclude the other parent from the child’s life. You will be designated the primary custodial parent, but your partner, as a non-custodial parent, will have visitation rights. They’ll get to spend one evening per week with the children, have them for overnight stays every other weekend and have them over for part of the holidays and school breaks. The only way to exclude the other parent from the child’s life is to have them declared unfit by a judge. For that, you’ll need extensive proof of abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, etc. Even then they might still get supervised visits or whatever arrangements the judge dictates. You need to keep in mind that the judge is required by law to look out for the child’s best interests and this includes having a meaningful relationship with the parent. Also, there’s no point in having the children express their wish to live with you as Mississippi courts do not have to take their will into consideration.
Child custody lawyers can also advise you on legal custody. This refers to who is going to make the important decisions regarding the child’s welfare – what school they attend, what medical treatments they should get, etc.
If the two of you decide to go for joint legal custody you’ll need to make sure you can talk to each other and come to a reasonable conclusion. Otherwise you’re setting yourselves up for a string of endless disputes that will only poison the atmosphere and make the situation unbearable for the children.
If you come to an agreement, your lawyers will help you draft the parenting plan and the judge will most probably approve it.