At What Age Can a Child Offer Custody Preference in a Mississippi Custody Hearing?

In some Mississippi child custody cases, the child is old enough to have legal, valid input about his or her own interests and well-being. The state of Mississippi has specific laws that outline and direct the court to listen to children of certain ages and situations.

If a child is age 12 or older, Mississippi courts will consider that child’s preference for custody. (It’s worth noting that courts do not have to follow this preference.) Regardless of the larger understanding of the child’s maturity, Mississippi law mandates that children 11 or younger don’t factor into custody determination. 

What Can a Child State for Preference in Mississippi?

The child can state a preference for which parent he or she wants to live with so long as the following stipulations are met:

-each parent is fit to have custody of the child

-each parent can adequately provide for the child’s care

-it is truly in the child’s best interest to live with said parent 

A judge could potentially overrule the child if another decision is deemed in his or her best interests. In this instance, the court would have to state on the record why this is the right decision. There is a potential appeals process if one party doesn’t agree with the ruling. 

Can a Child Refuse Visitation in Mississippi?

Parents are responsible for encouraging their children to have a relationship with both of them, and a judge will typically require that the child spend time with both parents unless one is deemed a danger or otherwise unfit. It’s worth noting that the state’s age of majority is 21, meaning a child can legally live at home until that age, and a parent’s child support would continue until that age or legal emancipation. 

If the child doesn’t wish to testify in open court, he or she could file a custodial “preference statement,” which would indicate a preference in parental custody. A child’s mental health could come into play as well. If the child is deemed to have potential mental health issues, a decision may be made for them. A judge could also appoint an outside evaluator to speak with the child outside of court, then present those findings of mental health or other potential issues. 

Child custody can get complicated quickly, even in lightly contentious negotiations. It’s essential to have a qualified legal team on your side throughout it all. Mississippi residents trust The Law Offices of Rusty Williard in an array of family issues. Call 601-824-9797 today to learn more and schedule a free consultation.