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Child Custody / October 12, 2022

Understanding Physical and Legal Custody

If you and your partner or spouse have separated, one of the most important questions is who will have custody of your children. Custody is often divided into two categories – physical and legal custody – each involving different rights and obligations. It’s essential that you understand the differences between these two forms of custody as you begin determining a custody arrangement for your family. The legal team at Derek L. Hall, PC is here to help.

For over 25 years, attorney Derek Hall has advocated for clients in Jackson and throughout Mississippi. Our team understands how custody disputes affect an entire family, which is why we are committed to handling each case we take with compassion and care. When you choose our firm, you can expect a close working relationship with your attorney, prompt communication, and straightforward legal advice.

To learn more about legal custody vs. physical custody, contact our office for a free initial consultation with a family law attorney in Jackson, MS.

What Is Legal Custody?

A parent with legal custody of a child has the right to make significant decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, such as their education, health care, extracurricular activities, and religious or moral instruction. A parent can have legal custody of their child even if they do not live with them.

What Is Physical Custody?

A parent who has physical custody of a child has a right to have the child live with them. A parent with physical custody can make decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day life, such as mealtimes and playdates. Physical custody is not the same as visitation rights, which a court may award to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child — known as the non-custodial parent.

Joint Physical and Legal Custody

Courts often prefer for parents to have joint legal and physical custody so that children can have fulfilling relationships with both of their parents. In a joint physical custody arrangement, the child will live with both parents, often splitting their time evenly between the two households depending on the distance between the homes, their school schedule, and the parents’ work obligations. Sometimes, a child will reside with one parent most of the time and visit their other parent on weekends or during school vacations. No matter how time is split in a joint physical custody arrangement, the home where the child spends the most time may be deemed the primary residence for tax purposes or to determine where the child can attend school.

In a joint legal custody arrangement, both parents must agree on parenting decisions that affect a child’s life, such as where the child will go to school, which church they will attend, and other choices that impact the child’s quality of life. A parent can have legal custody even if they do not have physical custody.

Sole Legal and Physical Custody

When a parent has sole physical custody, their child resides only with them and not with the other parent. While the parent who does not have physical custody may be allowed to visit the child, they cannot take the child anywhere without the knowledge and consent of the parent with sole physical custody.

A parent with sole legal custody has the right to make significant decisions affecting the child without the other parent’s consent. However, the other parent may have the right to be notified about decisions and to provide input, even if the parent with sole legal custody ultimately gets to make the decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Mississippi?

When a court decides a child custody arrangement for a family, the court’s primary concern is ensuring that an agreement serves the child’s best interest. Making this determination requires evaluating multiple factors related to the family’s circumstances, including:

  • The child’s age and health
  • Each parent’s parenting skills
  • Which parent provided care before and during the separation
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • The emotional ties the child has to each parent
  • The child’s educational and extracurricular or social needs
  • Each parent’s moral fitness
  • Each parent’s employment responsibilities and their ability to provide childcare
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • Whether a parent has attempted to interfere in their child’s relationship with their other parent
  • Whether a parent has a history of domestic violence
  • The preference of the child, if the child is mature enough to express a preference

Courts prefer to award joint custody when possible, as custody determinations operate under a presumption that both parents are equally entitled to custody. While some courts previously preferred to award custody to mothers in most cases, this is no longer common practice. Most courts will consider the child’s best interest above all else when making a determination.

How a Child Custody Attorney Can Help

Determining child custody can be complicated, particularly when co-parents do not get along. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the legal process alone. An experienced child custody attorney with Derek L. Hall, PC can help you get a favorable custody arrangement for you and your children by:

  • Listening to your concerns and explaining your rights and legal options
  • Investigating the circumstances of your case to gather helpful evidence that can be used during custody negotiations
  • Aggressively advocating on your behalf in court for a custody determination that fosters your relationship with your child
  • Filing motions and handling other necessary paperwork to enforce your rights under the custody agreement or order
  • Modifying the arrangement if your family experiences changed circumstances

Contact the Child Custody Lawyers in Jackson, MS at Derek L. Hall, PC for Help

If you need help with custody issues, reach out to the legal team at Derek L. Hall, PC. Our attorneys can listen to your concerns and advocate on your behalf for a custody arrangement that works for your family. Contact our firm for a free consultation with a family law attorney to learn more about your legal rights.

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