Child Custody

Child custody and visitation are often much contested aspects of a divorce case. Additionally, child custody and visitation issues can arise between parents who have never been married. If parents cannot agree as to the custody of their child(ren), the Court will make a determination based upon the “best interests of the chil(ren).” There are a number of factors which the Court takes into consideration in determining what the best interests of the child(ren) are. Once an initial custody order has been entered with the Court, whether by consent or by direction of the Court, a parent to modify that Order must show that there has been a “material change in circumstance” affecting the child(ren) since the entry of the original Order. If the parent can show a material change in circumstance affecting the child(ren), the Court will then base the change in custody on the best interest of the child.

In Tennessee, a “Permanent Parenting Plan” is a document mandated by the Tennessee legislature that must be used when an initial determination regarding custody is made. The parents either by consent agree on the terms of the Permanent Parenting Plan or the Court orders the terms of the Plan. Requirements for the permanent parenting plan include listing out in detail the responsibilities of each parent with respect to decision-making; which parent will be the primary residential parent and a detailed description of the other parent’s visitation; which parent the child(ren) will be with for holidays and vacations; educational decisions; financial support; the procedure by which the parents will handle disagreements (most parties will choose mandatory mediation); and any other important child development issues. Also, the law requires that the plan list all rights possessed by the parents as enacted by the Legislature, which include the right to telephone access with the children and unfettered rights to medical and school records.

In Mississippi, there are two principal types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody may be sole or joint. As sole legal custodian, a parent would have the sole decision making authority as it relates to the child’s education, non-emergency health care, religion, and extracurricular activities. If two parents share legal custody (joint legal custody), those parents then must discuss these various aspects of the child’s life and come to a mutual decision regarding these issues. Often, parents cannot agree and therefore, it is likely one parent will have final decision making authority as it relates to these various issues. Physical custody involves the actual living arrangements of the child. Physical custody may be solely exercised by one parent, with the other parent having visitation, or may be jointly shared by both parents

If you have child custody concerns or questions or would like to learn more about the child custody laws in your state, please call Berry Cannon Crawford Macaw PLLC for more information.

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