Below you will find basic information about divorce laws in Mississippi.
- What is physical custody? What is legal custody?
- How will a judge make a decision about custody?
- Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
- Can the non-custodial parent have access the child's medical, health, and school records?
- Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
- Where can I find more information on custody in Mississippi?
What is physical custody? What is legal custody?
Physical custody refers to the periods of time when one parent is responsible for care of the child.* Legal custody means decision-making rights and responsibilities related to the child’s health, education, and welfare.**
Joint physical custody means that each parent has regular and continuing contact with the child and a significant period of time when the child is in his/her care.*** Joint legal custody means that both parents share decision-making rights and responsibilities regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child. A joint legal custody order also requires that you and the other parent consult before making decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child.****
* Miss. Code § 93-5-24(5)(b)
** Miss. Code § 93-5-24(5)(d)
*** Miss. Code § 93-5-24(5)(c)
**** Miss. Code § 93-5-24(5)(e)
How will a judge make a decision about custody?
Judges make decisions about child custody based on whatever they think is in the best interests of the child. The judge will look at many factors to decide what is in the best interest of your child. Some of those factors include:
- the child’s age, health, and sex;
- which parent had continuing care of the child before the parents separated;
- which parent has the best parenting skills;
- which parent has the willingness and capacity to care for the child;
- both parents’ work responsibilities;
- the parents’ physical and mental health;
- the parents’ ages;
- emotional ties of the parent and child;
- the parents’ moral fitness;
- the child’s home, school and community record;
- the child’s wishes if the child is old enough to express a preference;
- stability of the home environment and of each parent’s employment; and
- any other relevant factors.*
* Albright v. Albright, 437 So. 2d 1003 (Miss. 1983)
Can a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
Possibly, yes. If the judge finds that a parent has a history of committing family violence, the judge should assume that it is not in the child’s best interest for the abusive parent to have sole or joint legal and physical custody (but the abusive parent can try to present evidence to change the judge’s mind). The judge may find a history of committing family violence if one incident of family violence has caused you serious bodily injury or there has been a pattern of family violence against either you your family household member or the abusive parent’s family household member.*
The judge also has to make a written statement explaining how the family violence affected his/her custody decision.* In deciding whether to grant custody to a parent who committed violence, the judge will consider whether or not the parent who committed family violence:
- has shown that giving him/her sole or joint physical or legal custody of the child is in the best interest of the child because of the other parent's absence, mental illness, substance abuse or another situation that affects the best interest of the child;
- has successfully finished a batterer's treatment program, an alcohol or drug abuse counseling program, or a parenting class if the judge decides any of these programs are appropriate;
- is on probation or parole or has a restraining order issued against him/her, and whether or not s/he has complied with its terms and conditions; and
- has committed any other acts of domestic violence.**
* Miss. Code § 93-5-24(9)(a)(i)
** Miss. Code § 93-5-24(9)(a)(iii)
Can the non-custodial parent have access the child's medical, health, and school records?
Yes. Even the child’s non-custodial parent (which is the parent that the child may not live with any or a majority of the time) can still have access to records and information about the child.*
* Miss. Code § 93-5-24(8)
Should I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice before you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to watch the other parent on a certain amount of visits or order a relative to supervise the visits for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to our MS Finding a Lawyer page to seek out legal advice.
Where can I find more information on custody in Mississippi?
You can find more information about custody through the following links. Please note, WomensLaw.org has no relationship with this organization and does not endorse their services. We provide these links for your information only.
The Mississippi Bar has the following resources: