As a parent, your child is your main priority during divorce. Navigating Mississippi’s child custody laws can be confusing though, especially while you are also trying to deal with your divorce. You might find it helpful to learn more about how child custody works and the different types of custody there are.
You will probably hear several different custody terms during this process. It is important for you to be able to differentiate between things like physical and legal custody as well as sole and joint custody. These terms are not interchangeable and all mean different things, although they are sometimes used together, such as in sole legal custody or shared physical custody.
Legal vs. physical custody
Custody agreements should address both legal and physical custody. Legal custody involves who has the right to make important decisions about a child’s upbringing. A parent with legal custody is generally in charge of a child’s:
- Health care
- Religious upbringing
Physical custody refers to which parent your child primarily lives with. A parent without physical custody can still see his or her child, though. Noncustodial parents often have visitation time during the week, on weekends or on holidays.
Sole vs. joint custody
Both legal and physical custody can be either sole or joint. Joint legal custody is fairly common in Mississippi, which gives both parents the right to make decisions. This requires a high level of cooperation from both parents. However, it is also possible that a judge might award only one parent sole legal custody, meaning that only he or she can make those decisions.
Sole physical custody is when a child lives with just one parent, and there may or may not be a visitation schedule in place. Joint physical custody is an option, too. With joint physical custody, children spend roughly equal amounts of time living with each parent.
Which option is best?
Child custody solutions should always be unique to every family’s situation. This means that what worked for your friend or your loved one might not be the best solution for your family. There are benefits drawbacks to both joint and sole custody, and what is ultimately most important is how your custody arrangement impacts on your child.
The goal of every child custody agreement should be to uphold your child’s best interests. There are a lot of factors that go into determining what those best interests are, and Mississippi family law does provide some guidance on the matter. However, since you and your child’s other parent are likely most familiar with your child’s needs, you may be interested in exploring your options for creating your own custody arrangement.