Posts Tagged ‘custody lawyer’

New Custody Rules…And Similar Advice

Wednesday, May 8th, 2019

Child custody cases are never easy. Oftentimes they require a year or more of litigation and many, many thousands of dollars. There have been several recent developments in Mississippi law that will affect each and every child custody case in this state, some are meaningful and will make a major impact, others will not. Custody matters are never straightforward and and those who believe they are simple likely need a straight-jacket and some serious psycho-therapy. And this is the reality when child custody is front and center in your life.

Easy advice is not readily available for those who are seeking simple solutions. There are a few recent changes to both statute and common law that will impact any child custody case in our state, although they rarely make outcomes differ. The basic paradigm is still in place…the best interests of the children will always be paramount. We have a piece of advice that is entirely obvious and commonly ignored…follow the existing court order precisely, do all you can for your kids, and never, ever fail to exercise visitation when it is availed to you. Be as involved with the kids as possible, help with homework, and do not let a new romantic relationship impact your little ones in a negative manner.

Chancery court is the sole arbiter of who wins child custody. Chancellors are the ultimate guardians of all children in their respective jurisdictions. Even though finances are of concern as well in every divorce, the clients we have the most compassion for are those who will fight to have their kids with them as much as possible. As a single dad, I share their raw emotion. It makes the job all the better to represent like minds.

Some recent legal changes that impact custody cases in our state include changes to the alimony laws which now present previously unforeseen obstacles, the judicial decision that marijuana use is a ground for divorce under the existing statutes and now considered tantamount to opiate use, and that habitual cruelty is now more easy to prove and encompasses more bad conduct as grounds for divorce. Child custody law has also been affected by these changes to cases that also apply to childless divorces. I want to be clear that all legal decisions regarding child placement are highly subjective and dependant on a myriad of factors.

Based on existing law and the subtle changes to Mississippi custody and divorce law, I have a few simple observations and a small piece of advice. My previous article the pointed to the absolute importance of continuing care of your child is a must-read. I also would like to point to the importance of moral fitness in any custody matter. Although it is often said that only God can judge, try telling that to your local chancery judge.

Law has and always will change. Your custody case will also have a changing life of its own. Being a little behind on your child support and then asking for a modification of custody as a defense is a very precarious scenario for any litigant. Never forget that one must possess “clean hands” in order to ask to court to intervene in their domestic case. At the end of the day, two wrongs never equal a right. That never needs to be forgotten.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family Lawyer with 15 years of trial experience. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

The Truth About Costly Kids

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

I absolutely love helping parents who love their kids and to fight for what is best for them….it is the most fulfilling part of a difficult job. I can easily relate to their plights simply because I am one of the crowd. I have fought through child custody cases since 2004. When I became a father with sole custody of my son in 2009, I particularly realized that children are an incredible blessing and also an expensive addition to our lives, even for those fortunate to have better than average incomes. I began to directly relate to so many of my clients, the ones who desperately wanted to raise their children as the primary custodian. Also noted is that the raw financial data regarding child-rearing is not particularly encouraging for most folks and presents a harsh fiscal reality for most.

Are you truly prepared to be a parent? With the risk of appearing heartless, I must say many of the people who contact my office are not even able to afford a pet, and quite far from affording a child. Let alone, they often struggle to even afford themselves. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child until age 18 is $233,610. Mind you, this does not include college or related expenses. The monthly expense far exceeds $1,200. As much as my heart hurts for the single mom of 2, 3, or 4 kids, I also see a society in meltdown because of the failure to acknowledge the basic expenses of our children. We simply cannot sustain a broken moral system where the government must fill the gap caused by poor decision-making of moms and dads alike.

Why do I point these matters out to my readers? I do not simply expect my advice will be heeded by most people after all. I hope that the truth will resonate for a few of you. Please consider another path or plain old abstinence before expecting a lawyer to fix your terrible financial plight due to the children you cannot afford. It is not only unfair to you, but to the innocent lives you brought to our world.

The last time I looked at the data, Department of Human Services in our state was chasing over a quarter-million (yes, over 250,000, almost ten percent of our entire state’s population) deadbeat parents for past-due child support. We are in terrible shape in this state if things do change. The government is simply overburdened and unable to fight for every innocent child effectively.

Now we should pivot slightly and look to college expenses and things get really scary. Obviously college costs have risen dramatically as of late and continue to do so. More than 19.9 million students are projected to attend colleges this fall. Fact: In 2019, the average annual cost of college education (room and board, tuition, fees) is approximately $21,000 at public schools and $47,000 annually at their private counterparts. That is some serious lifting for any parent, even with six-figure income.

Everyone can hopefully one day enjoy the experience of parenthood, but only if able to do so. Never forget that 14 percent of your child’s other parent’s (talking to you dad) adjusted income (usually around 10 percent of take-home pay) is not sufficient to raise a single child. The laws must be changed to hold those who create children sufficiently responsible for their outcomes. The choices we make ourselves must also be strongly considered.

In summation, Mississippi chancery courts exercise broad authority in determining all custody and support matters that come before them. Chancellors have broad discretion and will exercise them to the benefit of fairness for all, particularly your kids, but never forget that the law prefers those who help themselves first.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in domestic conflict management. He is a single father and passionate about the best interests of children. He will be speaking at the National Business Institute on July 18, 2019 at the Pearl, MS. Marriott.

Merry Christmas To Everyone…Especially Our Children

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

My name is Michael Louvier, Law Clerk to Matthew Poole, Esq. At this time of the year, it seems appropriate to reflect on the past year, look forward to the New Year to come, 2019, and to be thankful for what we have today. I thank God everyday for my family, with whom He blesses me every day of my life. I thank God for the unconditional love that my wife and two children and I have for each other. I’m thankful for my parents, who have been married for 62 years, and who set the bar very high for my three siblings and I as parents and grandparents. I thank God for my sister and two brothers, all older than me, and all wiser, as it should be. Especially during this time of the year, when we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I thank God for the blessing of the multitude of children that He has brought into mine and my wife’s lives. So many children in our 32 years together, 28 years married and 25 years as parents. Nephew, nieces, and hundreds of children have enriched us as a family. They have all made us laugh, cry, celebrate, rejoice and pray, and our lives are much more complete knowing each child. We love them all and say those exact words to them anytime we can. Many are “all-grown-up” adults now, off of dad’s payroll, as it were. And some of these children are having children of their own. We are so proud to be invited to the Baptisms, birthday parties… I could go on and on and on, suffice it to say that my wife and I love children, all of them. And from that love came this article, to-wit

At this time of year it is also appropriate to try to keep the wants, needs and wishes of others in mind, especially our children. Gifts under the tree and good food, desserts and cider are always a wonderful way to spend Christmas. Gift giving, mistletoe and the like aside, making the Holiday Season better for you and yours is always a complicated matter. And so, regardless of your marital situation: married, separated, divorced, re-married, single parent…it really doesn’t matter. If you want to make this Season better for your family and your children more enjoyable and less stressful, I urge you to consider the following:

Whenever you are enjoying time with your family, especially your children, you should always be mindful of your alcohol consumption. If you are an everyday drinker, slow it down. No need to show everyone how much you can drink, it’s not a contest that you want to win anyway. If you are a social drinker, then be more social than drinker. If you rarely drink alcohol and the egg-nog is exceptional, then make sure you don’t overdo it. In short: Be responsible for yourself and be nice. It’s the Holiday Season so Be Sober and Be Nice.

For the split and co-mingled families that live apart and geography and logistics become a variable in this issue – one word of advice: COMMUNICATE. Without communication with your ex (or his mom or the new husband or his 19-year-old daughter, etc., this will be a problem. The more children involved the more difficult the logistics become and; therefore, the more vital COMMUNICATION becomes. Whomever you must coordinate with to make this a less than impossible task, make all plan for exchanges and travel and meeting places early. Attempt to agree on a “half-way point” that is well lit, has a bathroom and some refreshments and maybe even good food. Schedule an agreed to best time and place and stick to it. If you haven’t yet done this part and you are reading this, then you should be searching for the contact in your phone right now. And when you get them on the line, tell them to pull up this site and read this blog. (Do this now!) Travel for this purpose is stressful, potentially dangerous according to weather and other conditions, and potentially expensive. Remember to have the car gassed up and ready to go. Minimize the stress by being the clear voice of reason in the communication. Drive carefully always. If it’s an extended drive, make the ride more comfortable with pillows and blankets and a cooler of water and maybe some snacks and sandwiches. Don’t be in too much of a hurry, as accidents will never get you there sooner. Don’t allow your emotions and the overall vitriol for the “other family” to dictate the plan. Most of all remember that it’s all about the kids, not you. Let me repeat that: this whole plan is about your children, and not about you. Be Flexible, Be the adult….Be Nice.

School is out for everyone, and that is sometimes good news for the kids and the teachers (I thank God for our educators, too!), but not good news for working parents. During your extended Holiday visitation period, your child might have a friend that has some free time. Within your limits when factoring the job restraints, the financial realities and the geographical issues, you may want to ask your child if he would care to include a friend or two in some of your plans. And don’t simply pick them up and go back to your place for some riveting television watching. Go somewhere! Do things! Go to the mall, the movie, museum, Chinese buffet, burger joint, ice-cream shoppe. You get it? Good, now do it! No matter where you live, there is always something to do in your area that is fun and exciting and sometimes even free. If all else fails, order a pizza and rent a good movie. Just don’t be a dud, Dad.

There is a growing debate about limiting access to social media during visits. There is no easy answer except to suggest that your child should feel comfortable to be online, but that she, too, should be aware of your time and your plans, etc. Just because I suggest that it’s all about them is not to be misinterpreted as it’s ALL about them. Kids used to have to drive away in a car to be miles away from you, now they can be sitting next to you on the couch, iphone in hand, and be on a completely different planet than you. By the same token, they can be hundreds of miles away from you and you can be talking to each other as if you were in the same room. Use this Holiday time as an opportunity to enhance your relationship and let social media assist you instead of letting it be a point of contention.

Our previous blog entry “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” could suggest that the higher the grade your child is in, the least likely you are to have any clue about the math and foreign language and almost all other subjects that they take. Get involved in your child’s everyday academic life before they understand how much of it that you don’t understand. Ask your student to share their required reading with you (now you have something to read, mom!) and this will immediately become a topic of conversation between the two of you.

My point in this article is clear: Be good to your children, especially in this Holiday Season. This is the time of year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

My prayer: Thank You, Lord, for blessing us with these many children in our lives. Let all those parents and others that read this article to gain some guidance from You, humbly, through me. Amen.


Michael Louvier, B.A. (University of New Orleans), J.D. (Mississippi College School of Law) is the primary clerk to Attorney Matthew Poole. He has two decades of legal experience and is the father of three.

Back to Square One: Revisiting “Maxims of Equity”

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

What in the world is a “maxim” and how does this term relate to Mississippi chancery court proceedings? To put it simply, a maxim, within the context of custody and divorce law, is a truism that cannot be avoided. Maxims represent well-established principles of law and are deeply rooted in what the English legal system regards as law “agreeable to natural reason”. In other words, maxims are the highly regarded principles upon which chancery court finds its very core roots. Maxims are well-accepted as natural law, as opposed to law created by legislative proclamation or executive fiat.

The following is not a comprehensive list of the well-established maxims of equity have been utilized in each and every chancery proceeding, rather a short and palatable version of the ones seasoned chancery lawyers most often argue. Most apply in every case to some extent or another. They are, in no particular order, as follows;

  1. Chancery courts aid those who are vigilant. Those who rest on their rights and fail to act quickly to protect them are often barred by the doctrine of “laches”, which essentially curtails certain rights if they are sought after unreasonable delay. This concept is distinguishable from statutes of limitation and no specific numeric time period applies. The standard is highly subject to interpretation of what constitutes reasonable delay. Each court can interpret this concept much differently.
  1. One must have “clean hands”, or be relatively faultless in order to seek the intervention of the court. Although perfection is not required, those who have violated court orders and acted with virtual impunity are often shown the door-quickly. The court will not aid those who violate basic principles of fairness.
  1. The opportunity to be heard is not unique to divorce and custody proceedings, however, those fundamental rights elaborated by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are given significant preference in terms of being chancery due process of law. Opportunity to be heard is soundly fundamental.
  1. Substance takes precedence over form. Although to a certain extent this shift in procedural dynamics has also been seen in damages/non-equity courts, the transition away from fact pleading and toward notice pleading is even more visible in courts of equity (chancery). Intent is more valuable than form of pleadings.
  1. All wrongs have a remedy, even if no statute prohibits specific conduct. Generally, and going back to 8th grade civics class, the legislature makes laws that are then interpreted by the judiciary. In equity courts, strict adherence to legislative proclamation takes a back seat to redressing all wrongs. A particularly pointed example of this function is when a party has failed to specifically make a claim that is within the general subject matter of the litigation but the opposing party is well-aware of the potential for liability. Often after a pleading is filed but prior to trial, facts and circumstances change. The court is not often inclined to hold you to a rigorous standard when this simple oversight occurs.

In summation, Mississippi chancery courts exercise broad authority in determining all matters that come before them. Chancellors have broad discretion and will exercise them to the benefit of fairness. Strict rules of pleading are not par for the chancery course. Although most litigants are willing to deal with the stress of domestic law, often a simple path remains elusive to those who are charged with excessive emotion. If you have a chancery court matter and need some fair advice from a seasoned litigator, feel free to give us a call.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who specializes in domestic conflict management. He is a single father and extremely passionate about the best interests of children.

A Path to Simplify Custody/Divorce Disputes – 5 Tips

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

The vast majority of parents simply cannot afford to fight a custody battle all the way through trial. More than one-half of custody battles cost each litigant in excess of one-hundred hours of attorney time, and when adding expenses such as investigative fees and court costs, it is rare that a custody battle will not lead to fees similar to that of a major surgery. As I say, there are no simple solutions to complex problems. However it is quite clear that having a clear basis for discussion with your child/children’s other parent can assist in formulating a workable path forward.

When a prospective client calls my office, the first thing we often hear is that no conversation regarding custody, visitation, support, insurance, etc. has occurred regarding the children. This presents what I would call a “non-starter”. If the caller has vast financial resources, perhaps it may make sense to shirk what seems to be the obvious starting point of talking about a resolution with little conflict; conversation.

More often than not, parents can prevent a whole lot of cost and lost sleep by having a conversation with the other parent that maintains a linear path to resolution. Funds are better spent on college or other educational opportunities that children often lack. How can this be accomplished? Here is a simple blueprint that will hopefully advance your cause and save you money and stress that accompanies child custody litigation. Hopefully my clients have done everything under the sun to avoid costly litigation, however some legal “scholars” may have convinced them the fight and not be their own best diplomat.

The blueprint to successful low-cost resolution is as follows:

Offer visitation that is respectful of the other parent’s work schedule. Often, the hang-up in custody/visitation matters is that one parent had an irregular and unpredictable work schedule. There are many ways to accommodate these issues and a little bit of creativity often goes a long way.

Unless your ex is violent or a danger to your child, consider agreeing to joint legal custody. It is only a token victory for the opposition and will help to avoid future conflict. Legal custody rarely has significant impact and is a valuable tool in negotiation. It feels like a moral victory to those who tout their parenting abilities and want involvement with their little ones.

Consider initially seeking alimony only if your marriage has been over 8 years and there is significant disparity between your income and that of your spouse. Also, keep in mind that earning capacity is considered as much as actual earning history. If you are highly educated and do not have stay at home kids, the odds of receiving alimony are slender anyway.

Don’t worry about keeping the house, an equity payout is just as valuable. If you are unable to afford the mortgage payment, you are likely fighting a losing battle anyway.

Don’t seek attorney fees unless there is a true need. The old saying “don’t put good money before bad money” applies here. You will often spend more battling for fees than it is worth. Also, it is rare to see awards of more than 3-4 thousand dollars unless the payer makes more than six figures annually.

In short, people waste an awful lot of money to “win” a divorce or custody case because they are determined to be right. I respectfully suggest that more often than not, the price of moral vindication is too high to make sense. If a legal decision saves dollars, it also makes cents (get it?….my attempt at humor usually is not that funny). If you need help navigating a divorce or custody matter I will gladly put you on the best path to peaceful, inexpensive resolution.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS domestic attorney who specializes in family law conflict resolution. He was selected Top 10 Family Lawyer in the state in 2018 by the National Association of Family Attorneys. He is a 2001 Millsaps Second Century Merit Scholar and Finalist of the Steen, Reynolds, and Dalehite Trial Competition. He was admitted to the Bar in 2004.

Free Custody Lawyers to be Legally Mandated Soon? Time Will Tell

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Interestingly, government has been increasingly involved in not only health care, but in matters normally centered in private markets such as law and legal rights. After the nationalization of healthcare, is it possible that the federal government will step into the legal realm and pay for an attorney when fundamental rights (like the right to be a parent) are involved? What evidence is there that we are heading in that direction? I would suggest that we are already taking baby steps toward a higher level of government fiscal involvement in domestic law. Here is a synopsis of my thoughts on point.

Law 101 makes clear that indigent criminal defendants have the right to free counsel if they are faced with penalty of a minimum of one year of incarceration. Indigency is defined by local rules but is largely derived from the precept of ability to pay an attorney, even if income is substantial. In what I would call a “quasi-criminal” area or domestic law, the government of the State of Mississippi provides a no-cost lawyer for those charged with abuse and/or neglect of a minor in their care during youth court proceedings. Interestingly, this dynamic is not entirely askew from a criminal scenario wherein the government both prosecutes and defends an indigent criminal defendant.

This recent development of providing a parent advocate to an indigent charged with abuse/neglect in youth court seems to signify a shift toward government-provided representation in matters that involve what would be deemed fundamental rights, such as the right to be a parent. Other fundamental rights would include those contained in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution (also known as the bill of rights), as well as rights which flow from the due process provisions included in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The youth court parent advocacy program and the provision for free representation in these matters begs another question altogether; why do we not provide a free attorney for a person who is alleged to have abused/neglected in a chancery court proceeding? Why the distinction just because of the forum? I must admit, there is no logical answer that I can fathom.

Shifting gears somewhat, I have also asked myself and my colleagues why we do not provide an indigent contempt defendant (usually someone far behind on support or alimony, or both) with free counsel. These defendants are nearly always thrown into jail until the entire delinquency is erased. Is this scenario not tantamount to the provisions in the criminal context allowing for the appointment of a no-cost public defender? It seems to me that this presents a distinction without any real difference. The lines are certainly blurry at best.

Without being too lucid about my underlying thoughts, it is very clear that we have set up some arbitrary, even capricious standards as to who gets a free attorney when, why, and how. We have taken some steps away from requiring litigants to follow the “American Rule” (yes it really is called that) wherein people must pay for their own attorneys, as opposed to the “English Rule” wherein the loser pays all legal costs. It may not happen during my career, but I expect that in the near future, the government will provide no-cost lawyers in matters that involve fundamental rights and even those such as contempt where incarceration is a real possibility.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi family lawyer with 15 years of litigation experience. He has managed over 1,200 domestic matters since 2004.

Time to Re-Examine Joint Custody Arrangements? National Parent’s Organization Says So

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Note: This post is not an endorsement or critique of the National Parent’s Organization, merely an observation and analysis of their position as to the impact of standard (limited) visitation on young lives.

The bulk of Mississippi Chancery Court judges are what practicing attorneys deem “standard visitation judges”. What, in fact, does this term refer to? To state it very bluntly, it signifies that one parent involved in a custody dispute is going to get the short end (very short) of the stick: time to spend with their own children. Although it is not common that separated parents live closely to one another to equally “split the baby”– sometimes this is the case, but one parent (dad, most frequently) is cut out of the bulk of involvement with their own kids. Does this make sense for everyone? Is this reliance on “standard visitation” truly in the best interests of the children who are impacted? The research on point seems to indicate that children suffer from such limitations in sharing near equivalent time with both mom and dad.

Although I confess that The National Parent’s Organization was, until running across the research in question, foreign to me, I will say that they make a valid point insofar that children actually do benefit from what more closely resembles joint custody. In Mississippi, joint custody is presumably in the best interests of children only when parents agree to it. Very seldom, if ever, have I seen a Chancery judge award close to “equal time” with both parents. Is this due to an antiquated thinking, steeped in the belief that children need consistency above all else? It is certainly subject to debate, if nothing more.

In a recent article that appeared on Foxnews.com, a professor Emeritus from Ohio State University, Donald Hubin, Ph.D, postulated that children are disrupted by standard visitation arrangements, which for all practical purposes are in fact, limited visitation schedules. Without expressing my humble opinion too frankly, some of the opinions Mr. Hubin presents are deserving of consideration.

Citing a recent study by the National Parents Organization, Hubin asserts that “The best research on the well-being of children when parents live apart shows that children typically do best when they enjoy substantially equal time in the care of each of their parents”. Further, he states that they do “much better” than children raised in sole-custody situations. Definitely food for thought.

In essence, the thrust of Mr. Hubin’s position is that children are better-suited to have involvement of both parents in their day-to-day activities; doing homework, getting ready for school, extracurricular functions, and the list goes on as such. His conclusion, based upon the “parenting plans” implemented in Ohio’s 88 counties, is that the courts are failing to adequately consider the value of co-parenting on a nearly equal basis. (The article title pretty well sums up his position, “Divorce is hard enough on children–why are our courts making it worse?). The last line of the article simply states, “Our children deserve better”. It is difficult to ignore the power in this simplicity.

In closing, it is clear that some of the thinking that drives child-custody judicial policy needs careful consideration and the ability to strip away preconceived notions that are rooted in tradition more so than logic and reason. While there are never simple answers to complex domestic issues involving children, it remains clear that putting self-interest to the side is often the key to a child’s ability to thrive. Hurt feelings are a given after a tough break-up. I would suggest that anyone going through a custody dispute fully consider shelving all animosity that they have toward the other parent. Even though they may deserve your scorn, your children do not. Consider co-parenting for the sake of your children. They will thank you for it later in life.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family Lawyer with 15 years of trial experience. He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 8 year old son, Lucas.

Mom’s Advantage: Child Custody Myths Debunked

Monday, August 27th, 2018

Before I began my legal career in 2004 at Wilkins, Stephens, and Tipton, a large medical malpractice and pharmaceutical defense firm right here in Jackson, Mississippi, I was spared much of the knowledge and agony that regularly face domestic lawyers. Although the task of family attorneys can be very rewarding, it also presents the emotional rollercoaster that so many of us, lawyers included, seek to avoid on a daily basis. Practicing domestic law presents some certainties and a whole lot of grey area. A client’s ability to accept the human element and subjectivity that come along with family conflict are immeasurable to not only their own well-being, but that of their children.

There still exists a strong perception that mom has a significant advantage in a dispute with dad over the custody of children, particularly in the Southeast U.S.. We have time and again written on the Albright vs. Albright factors and their seminal importance in child custody litigation. They are extensively detailed in our prior blog posts. We began a series in January, 2018 that adequately outlines each of the factors that a court considers in child custody cases. The articles are written on an early college level so that readers are able to focus on substance over form and legalese.

I highly recommend to any litigant that they gain as much knowledge as possible to advance their cause. Knowledge IS power. Simply put, the Albright case outlines the criteria that a Chancery Court must consider in their deliberation as to the best interests of a minor child’s physical custody. Simple answers to child-custody cases do not exist, period. Years before I began practicing domestic law, Mississippi Chancery Courts were able to confer a modest legal advantage unto mom in child custody proceedings. Those times are essentially forgotten history.

The general rule of thumb prior to the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling in Albright was that a child was better served during their “tender years” by mom having physical custody. That is no longer the case. If I were advising a mother in a custody dispute, which I have hundreds of times, I would offer one simple tip: breastfeed as long as possible. Although breast-feeding alone is not an Albright factor, continuity of care is a factor, and Mississippi chancery court judges will always give great pause before even considering removing a child from the biological nurturing mom can provide. Score one for mom.

Do not believe the hype: Outside of the lone fact previously discussed, mom does not have any measurable advantage over dad in a custody proceeding. Partly due to the equal protection clause, a portion of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the changing dynamics in family structures, the law no longer favors a mother over dad in custody suits. It is crucial to any child-custody litigant to have recognition of the power vested in chancery judges. They not only interpret law, they find fact as in the role that a jury would in damages cases.

It is amazing that so many people with no legal training will continue to speak as if they are seasoned attorneys. They are not able to offer any appreciable wisdom to a custody litigant. It’s one more thing better left for the true experts such as myself. Ignore your friends attempts to be constitutional scholars, no matter how well-intended.

If you are going through a custody or visitation case, you already are aware of the stress and complexity they usually present. I am not only a single father, I have seen those battles from the front line likely as much as any single litigator around. I deeply understand the challenges that child custody cases present. We look forward to assisting you in your time of great need.

Matthew Poole is a seasoned Jackson, Mississippi domestic lawyer who has evaluated in excess of 6,000 domestic legal proceedings. His sole area of practice is family law.

If It Isn’t Paradoxical, It’s Not True: Custody Myths Debunked

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Let me start by stating what is too often overlooked: there are not extremely obvious answers or simple solutions in child custody battles. In my experience having taken several hundred custody and visitation disputes to trial, I have learned a few things that could potentially help a litigant in these stressful cases.

My intention is simple today: to bring basic common sense into the murky water of domestic custody disputes. The myth is this: the worse I make the other parent/ex/spouse appear, the better I appear to the court. Not so fast, as we shall see.

Once upon a time I had a client who was probably, but not certainly, the better parent when compared to her husband, but she made a relatively simple custody victory elusive by getting in her own way….it often happens. When testifying about the parenting skills of her husband (who sought full physical and legal custody of a 6 year old little boy), she would instantly and consistently revert to name-calling and bashing the man she married years ago. Most of her testimony focused on his numerous affairs, not his skill in parenting. He was far more collected and even-tempered than she. He did in fact have several admitted extramarital affairs, and she clearly was not past any one of them. Her wounds were simply too fresh to focus on her child. To him, her insults were like water off of a duck’s back….and therein lies the rub.

Even though we did eventually secure a favorable result, our understandably angry client would likely have spent a fraction of her final invoice if she had bitten her tongue, if even every so often. She was clearly so upset with her husband that she lost all sight of the one thing the court cared about: what was best for her little boy. A case that could have been resolved in a couple of months instead required a couple of dozen hearings and far more too much wasted time.

Even though it is quite tempting to use a Chancery Court proceeding to tell the whole story about the downfall of a marriage/relationship, some things are much better left unsaid. Please realize that the court already knows you don’t have warm, fuzzy feelings about your ex/spouse, or you wouldn’t be there in the first place. It is already well-understood. Slinging mud at your ex often simply irritates the Chancellor hearing your case. Often the best thing to say in court is nothing at all, especially if it causes distraction.

The paradox lies in a simple misconception; that having more negative to say about your child’s other parent will score points, therefore you win. Not so fast; goodwill and maturity go a long way–Mississippi Chancellors appreciate calm reasoning and the desire to get along, particularly for the childrens’ benefit, if nothing less. Don’t ever think you are worse-off than the next custody litigant. Cooler heads most often, and likely should, prevail. Often the litigant who is emotionally-charged teters on the brink of appearing to alienate a child’s innocent affection of both mom and dad.

The attitude a child custody litigant brings with them to trial is overtly paramount to the success of their claim and the efficiency in obtaining a positive outcome. It is very easy to lose sight of what matters most to the court: the best interests of children. Emotionally-charged litigants often forget that their testimony will not only be judged on its believability, but on its responsibility and focus.

My best advice to anyone going through a custody fight (whether or not in a divorce or a custody/modification proceeding) is to remain calm and stay focused on your kids. Forget about the indiscretions, the lying, the cheating, or whatever else your ex did to bring you to disappointment UNLESS it has a direct bearing on your children. It’s usually water under the bridge. Don’t forget that Chancery Court judges are human too, and they hear bickering on a daily basis. It gets tiresome at the least. The myth is that mudslinging is effective; the truth is that it is not very productive.

If you are seeking an attorney who has a clear view of the big picture in a custody dispute, I will gladly lend my advice. Shaping your testimony and being in the right frame of mind are fundamental to winning child custody disputes. If you are prepared to consider viewing this type of litigation from a fresh, objective, and realistic perspective, give us a call.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, Mississippi Family and Domestic Attorney with 14 years of focused experience in child custody litigation and divorce.