Perhaps the most nerve-racking aspect of divorce for parents is child custody. When two parents decide to end their marriage, their number one concern is usually their children. Who will get custody? Will both parents, share custody, or will sole custody be awarded to one parent?

In Mississippi, as in most states, child custody is centered around what’s in the best interest of the child. The chancery judge considers various factors to determine what custody arrangement would be best for the child.

Some elements the judge may consider, include:

  • Which parent was the primary caregiver before divorce?
  • The parents’ willingness and ability to care for the child
  • The mental, emotional and financial stability of the parents
  • Which parent has a stronger bond with the child?
  • The availability of the parents—is one parent frequently away from home?

The judge will consider a multitude of factors before awarding custody. If the child is 12 years old or older, the judge will likely ask the child’s preference, but the judge will make the final decision.

Physical custody versus legal custody

The chancery judge awards physical custody and legal custody; physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with, and legal custody gives the authority to make decisions about the child’s health and welfare.

One parent may be awarded both custody designations, or the custody rights can be divided, based on what the judge believes will be best for the child.

How is child support calculated?

Generally, child support is based on one or both parent’s gross income, although it can vary depending on the situation.

In Mississippi, the guideline formula to calculate child support is based solely on the non-custodial parent’s gross income:

  • 14% for one child
  • 20% for two children
  • 22% for three children
  • 24% for four children
  • 26% for five or more children

The custodial parent’s income has no role in child support calculations in Mississippi.

It’s necessary to note that parents can seek a custody modification. If there is a significant change in life circumstances or both parents decide that the arrangement needs updating, either parent can request a modification.