If you are in the process of getting divorced in Jackson, Mississippi, and have children, one of the big questions you’ll have may involve child custody. If you are in the process of working on your parenting plan or custody agreement, you may have heard about the best interests of the child standard. In short, this standard is used by the judge when both parents cannot reach an agreement outside of court and need to take their child custody battles to court. It is often in the best interests of both parents to resolve their child custody issues outside of court, with the assistance of their divorce lawyers. Why? When former couples bring their child custody questions to court, there is always the risk that the judge will make a decision that neither parent wants. The best interests of the child standard is quite flexible and it can sometimes be difficult to predict what factors a judge will weigh when making child custody decisions. So, if you and your former partner are having difficulties with your parenting plan and child custody agreement, you may want to speak to Ballard Law, PLLC, family lawyers in Jackson, Mississippi. Our child custody attorneys can help you understand your rights, help you draft a parenting plan that will be acceptable to the court, and assist you with your divorce. While many child custody agreements can be reached outside of court, Ballard Law, PLLC understands that sometimes couples need to take their cases to court to protect their children’s safety and interests. Contact our divorce lawyers today to learn more.
What is the Best Interests of the Child Standard?
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, there is no one specific “best interests of the child” standard. Rather, judges will consider a set of guiding principles that they will use when determining child custody matters. In Mississippi, in particular, these principles are very broad and give judges great discretion in making decisions. What are these principles? In general, here are some things judges will consider:
- Divorce can be incredibly traumatic to divorcing couples, but it can be especially traumatic to children. Judges will generally look to make child custody decisions that preserve stability for the child. This means that if the child can remain in the family home, the parent who is staying in the family home may get preference for primary custody. Keeping the child in the same school district may also be a priority, as will ensuring that the child is close to siblings and close family members.
- Ongoing relationship with both parents. Mississippi guidelines for the best interest of the child are quite general. However, the court recognizes that children have a right to enjoy a relationship with both of their parents. This may mean that while one parent might get primary custody, the other parent should still enjoy visitation rights and enjoy an ongoing relationship with the child. Of course, there may be situations of abuse or domestic violence where measures may need to be taken to protect the child. In these instances, supervised visitation may be arranged.
When making child custody decisions, the courts will generally look for arrangements that are permanent and ones that promote stability. Both parents may be evaluated to determine which parent is best able to provide for the child’s emotional, social, and basic needs. Each parent’s health, income, living situation, and history of violence or drug abuse might be considered. If the child is old enough, his or her wishes may also be considered. If you are in the process of making child custody decisions, contact Ballard Law, PLLC, family lawyers in Jackson, Mississippi today. Our lawyers can help you understand your options and rights with the best interests of your children in mind.
Facing a Child Custody Battle in Jackson, Mississippi?
If you are facing a child custody battle in Jackson, Mississippi, there are some steps you can take right away to protect your rights. When your children’s safety and well-being are on the line, it is important to take steps to protect your family. Here are some things to consider:
- Hire a child custody lawyer in Jackson, Mississippi. Ballard Law, PLLC are family lawyers in Jackson who can help you navigate your child custody battle, help you gather supporting documents to build the strongest case, and help you understand your rights. Sometimes having a skilled mediator on your side can lead to a good outcome without the need to take your child custody case to court. That said, Ballard Law, PLLC are child custody attorneys who can help you take your case to court, if needed.
- Get your home in order. The courts will look to see that you have a stable living situation. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to show the courts that you have a stable job, stable home, and that you can provide for your children.
- Gather documentation. If you have been in charge of caring for your children, make sure that you can document your role. This means being able to show that you were the one transporting your child to and from school. Keep records of emails with your child’s teachers or day care. Keep logs of time you have spent helping your child with homework, transporting your child to activities, and generally caring for your child.
- Get witnesses. If your child’s teachers, counselors, or community leaders can testify to your role in your child’s life, you may want to ask that they serve as witnesses should your case go to court.
- Don’t miss a visitation date. If you already don’t have primary custody and don’t want to lose visitation rights, always show up to visitation dates.
These are just come of the ways you can prepare for your child custody court case. Ballard Law, PLLC are family law attorneys in Jackson, Mississippi who can help you navigate the complexities of the law when it comes to drafting a sound parenting plan and child custody arrangement. Contact our firm today to learn more.