In Mississippi, custody of children is divided into physical and legal custody. By statute, physical custody refers to periods of time in which the child resides with one parent. Legal custody in turn refers to the decision-making rights related to health, education and welfare of the child.
Awards of physical custody may be solely to one parent with the other parent receiving visitation or the court can award joint physical custody of the child. Awards of joint physical custody require that the parents are able get along enough to coparent and live in close physical proximity to each other. While a joint physical custody award doesn’t require a 50/50 split in time with the child, it does require that each parent spends substantial amount of time with the child in comparison with the typical visitation schedule (every other weekend).
Like physical custody, legal custody may be awarded to one parent or jointly to both parents. Typically, parents will have to be able to communicate and cooperate, but there is no need for the parents to live in close physical proximity to each other to be awarded joint legal custody.
Custody can be (1) joint physical and joint legal custody to both parents, (2) sole physical custody to one parent and joint legal custody to both parents, or (3) one parent with sole physical and sole legal custody and the other parent with visitation. The court’s initial custody decision is based on the child’s best interest, but those decisions are subject to modification. However, once the court has made a custody decision, a parent seeking modification must show a material change in circumstances since the custody decision, that adversely affects the child and it is in the child’s best interest to live with the other parent. Here is a link to a previous blog post on the test for modifying a previous physical custody determination.
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Modifying physical custody is a complex legal process, and it is advisable to seek guidance from an experienced family law attorney in Mississippi. I can assess your case, gather evidence, represent you in court, and protect your child’s best interests throughout the process. Please contact my office at 601-825-3124 to set up an initial consultation.