Another Father’s Day has passed. I had a meeting with a prospective client a little while back, considering a custody arrangement for his minor child. He believed that he had to give custody of his child to his wife, because of the child’s age (under 12) and sex (female). In Mississippi, those assumptions are no longer true. A few years ago, Mississippi custody law dictated that a child of “tender years” would be best with the natural mother. This concept left many father’s hanging and begging for relationships with their young children. However, the Mississippi legislature changed the law. Now, there is no “tender years” presumption that a minor child be best placed with the mother. Courts, in my opinion, still lean a bit towards moms when custody involves placement of small children. However, Dads can and do get custody.
Having a there year old of my own, my beliefs about fostering relationships with children have changed. I do not believe that the standard “every other weekend from Friday until Sunday” allows the non-custodial parent to foster and develop a true relationship with their child. I know that with my child, changes are daily…..go 10-days without seeing her and viola, I have missed out on many things. So what’s the solution? I am not 100% sure of the solution, but preventing a dad, or any parent from seeing a child for a week to ten days at time, puts serious strain on the relationship and development of parental bonding. We have chancellors who are willing to think outside the box and place custody with both parents equally in a “week on week off” structure. This, to me, is an improvement and a move forward. However, there are those that argue that it puts too much stress on the child and that the child needs stability of one house and one parent. I don’t know of any study that has answered this question, but I am in favor of more time, rather than less.
In any event, moms and dads in this state are on equal footing when it comes to custody. I have obtained custody for dads on many many occasions, even dads with newborns. So, before you go giving up on custody and defining you relationship with your child by signing or agreeing to a custodial arrangement, consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about child custody in Mississippi. My office is always available for a no obligation initial consultation.