Divorce can be a scary time, but it is more so for parents because they have the added fear of losing custody or parenting time with their child. After all, since the couple is splitting, there will be some reduction in parenting time, until one receives sole and exclusive custody. This makes many parents wonder how they can maximize their child custody time.
When talking about child custody time, parents are usually talking about physical custody, which is where the child lives and how much time you get to spend with your child.
This is different than legal custody, which refers to a parent’s right to make major life decisions, like healthcare, education, etc.
The presumption in Mississippi
In our state, the presumption is that parents have equal rights to both physical and legal custody. This presumption can be modified if there is proof of substance abuse, a criminal history, domestic violence and any other factor that could endanger the child’s well-being.
Equal rights does not mean equal time
Though, equal rights does not mean that you will receive equal parenting time. Courts use several factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child, which will affect their decision about parenting time.
The judge can look at the child’s age, preferences and health. Judges also look to the parental ability of each parent (i.e., the ability to provide physical support, mental support, education, etc.).
The judge also looks at what the parents themselves want and their willingness to work together for the child’s welfare, including their current involvement in the child’s life.
Judges also make determinations as to maintaining continuity of the child’s life and the presence of siblings and other relatives.
How can I maximize my child custody time?
From the above factors, you can begin to see things that you can do to maximize your awarded parenting time.
- First, be involved in their life and have proof.
- Second, demonstrate a willingness to respectfully work with your co-parent.
- Third, be reasonable and flexible with your schedule and your parenting time requests, and show that they are based on the child’s needs, not necessarily your own.
- Finally, keep as many records as possible to prove this, including photos, emails, text messages, receipts, etc.
Understand that Mississippi divorce and child custody is complex. But, if you are prepared, you will be in the best position possible to maximize your child custody time.