Alternating Physical Custody of a Young Child

It has become common in the state of Mississippi, as well as other jurisdictions, that parties to a divorce as well as custody actions have requested that their minor child be as close to equally split in physical custody as the court will permit. On the day of the trial in a recent case that went to the court of appeals, the husband and wife agreed to consent to trial of the divorce on solely irreconcilable differences and permit the chancellor to resolve the issues of physical and legal custody of the minor child of the marriage. At the time of this marital dissolution the parties were jointly parenting a five-year-old little girl. After hearing evidence based upon the testimony of the parties excluding the fault-based grounds that were dropped ,the parties were both awarded approximately an equal split on physical custody until the daughter was able to attend kindergarten. The wife argued that the chancellor mistakenly failed to decide who would have custody of the daughter when she started kindergarten. The wife did not argue that the final order of the court was not final and appealable, but the underlying issue to be resolved was the parallel to this issue. In his ruling, the chancellor failed to specify the exact month and year in the final judgment of the child’s reversion to standard physical custody on the part of the mother. The wife also argued to the court of appeals that the chancellor failed to consider if the joint custody arrangement was practical due to the distance the daughter had to travel. At this point, the father lived in San Antonio, Texas. There was a significant argument as to the impracticality of traveling to San Antonio, Texas from Brandon, Mississippi, even prior to the child starting kindergarten at 5 years old. In this case, the chancellor found that shared custody was in the best interest of the child, despite the fact that she would have to travel significantly to spend time with either parent. Given the distance between San Antonio, Texas and Brandon, Mississippi, the court of appeals determined that the custody arrangement was not in the best interest of the minor child. Thus, the case was reversed and remanded with further instructions to the court to make adequate consideration of the travel time in order to effectuate this difficult provision in terms of travel for alternating custody. The important point to remember is that a significant amount of precedent discourages the use of alternating custody arrangements even prior to a child attending school.

If you need help with a complicated or complex custody arrangement or need advice on how to best proceed in order to parent your child or children, call the Law Office of Matthew Poole, and we will be happy to help in any way that we can within the bounds of existing legal precedent.

Matthew Poole (601) 573-7429.

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