When parents go through a divorce, they may have a difficult time agreeing on a child custody arrangement. Parents who are not able to come to an agreement on their own may have to go to court, where a judge will decide on an arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
Determining the child’s best interests
While there is no set standard to determine the best interests of the child, courts can consider a variety of factors relating to the child and the parents. Some of these factors include:
- The age of the child (children 12 and older can often express their preference)
- A parent’s willingness and ability to care for the child
- Each parent’s relationship with the child prior to the divorce
- Each parent’s health, job responsibilities and living environment
- History of drug/alcohol abuse and/or domestic violence
- Each parent’s childcare responsibilities prior to the divorce
Overall, the court’s goal is to ensure that the final child custody arrangement provides the child with the physical, emotional, and financial stability he or she needs to be healthy and successful.
Joint custody often preferred
In Mississippi, courts encourage joint custody arrangements whenever possible. Joint custody essentially means that both parents will share legal and physical custody of the child. Legal custody refers to decision-making relating to the child’s upbringing, while physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. It is important to note, however, that joint physical custody does not mean that the child will spend exactly 50 percent of their time with one parent and 50 percent with the other. It simply means that each parent will have a significant amount of child with the child.
A family law attorney in your area can help navigate complex child custody and support issues and ensure that your child remains the number one priority throughout the process. Once the court approves a custody agreement, both parents are obligated to adhere to the terms of the final order.