Mississippi Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Mississippi and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Mississippi courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
There are a few different types of custody in the State of Mississippi.
- Physical custody refers to the time the child resides with or is under the physical care of one parent.
- Legal custody involves the authority of a parent to make major decisions in a child's life, such as medical and educational decisions.
- Sole custody means only one parent is given the rights and responsibilities of the child.
- Joint custody means the parents share custody.
Since there are various types of custody, there are a few ways the court may award custody, as listed in (MCA § 93-5-24-2):
- Joint physical custody and joint legal custody to be shared by both of the parents.
- Joint physical custody to be shared by both parents and sole legal custody to be awarded to only one parent.
- Joint legal custody to both parents but sole physical custody to only one parent.
- Sole legal custody and sole physical custody awarded to only one parent.
- Even when one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent is usually entitled to reasonable visitation with the child, unless exercising visitation would be harmful to the child.
As you work on your parenting plan / custody agreement, you should be aware that the State of Mississippi encourages parents to share joint custody of their child, when it is in the child's best interests.
Joint physical custody and joint legal custody, when awarded together are simply referred to as "joint custody"(MSA § 93-5-24-5a). Joint custody is almost always granted when both parents can agree to share custody.
When you share joint custody, you don't necessarily have to share the child's time equally, but your child should be able to have frequent, ongoing, meaningful contact with each of you.
When you divorce but are able to work together and raise your child, the benefit to your child is tremendous. Your child will observe you having a friendly relationship with each other, which helps create a happy and healthy environment.
When creating your parenting plan / custody agreement in the State of Mississippi, there are a few key components you will want to include so that your plan will have everything it needs to serve the needs of your child:
- A declaration stating the type of custody each parent shall have.
- A child visitation schedule or parenting time schedule that dictates when the child will reside with or spend time with each parent. The child visitation schedule should also include a holiday schedule and allow the child extended time with each parent for vacations.
- A statement delegating the decision making authority for major, specific decisions pertaining to the child to both or either parent. An example of this would be one parent is responsible for making decisions regarding the child's religious upbringing, while the other parent will have the final decision regarding the child's education, and both parents are equally responsible for making the child's medical decisions.
- A method for dispute resolution in case the parents fail to agree in the future.
- Any relevant information the parents wish to include, such as how optional expenses, like orthodontics or extracurricular activities shall be paid for, the details of transporting the child between exchanges, whether or not the disciplinary actions of a parent will carry over at the other parent's home, etc.
Custody of the child shall be determined by what the court by considers to be in the best interests of the child (MSA § 93-5-24-1).
Many factors are considered when determining the child's best interests such as:
- The wishes of the child
- The wishes of the parents
- The ability of the parents to properly provide and care for the child
- The current and potential custodial homes
- Any past history of abuse or neglect
- The child's adjustment to his home, school, and community
- The relationships the child has with the parents, any siblings, and any other people of importance in the child's life.
- Any information the court finds relevant
The focus of your agreement needs to be the welfare and happiness of your child. As you make a custody schedule and decide the role that each parent will have in your child's life, you absolutely have to think about what is best for your child.
When possible, you both should cooperate and create an agreement that you support and accept. These agreements are generally more successful and parents will usually follow the agreement better. This benefits your child by providing more consistency in his/her life.
If you dispute the custody arrangements, you can each prepare an agreement to show the court. The judge will then determine the final custody agreement--either by accepting a parent's proposed plan or by creating a new one.
The important thing to remember when creating your parenting plan is that once the parenting plan is implemented by the court, it will become a binding document that both parents will be required to comply with until the child reaches adulthood or until it is modified in a court proceeding.
Careful thought and planning must be used when creating a parenting plan so that it may serve the child's best interests and comply with the requirements of the court.
The top twenty cities in Mississippi (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, Southhaven, Meridian, Tupelo, Greenville, Olive Branch, Clinton, Vicksburg, Horn Lake, Pearl, Starkville, Columbus, Pascagoula, Brandon, Ridgeland, Laurel, Clarksdale.