Posts Tagged ‘standard visitation’

Advice to Women: How to Spot a Bad Dad

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

One of the most powerful drivers of domestic litigation, mom filing suit against dad or vice-versa, is the desire by both parents to receive or avoid child support obligations.  The typical, let’s say father, will usually bend over backwards to avoid paying child-support, because it is a 21 year obligation not easily dispatched. Sometimes, and more often than not, these dads look for creative ways to thwart that obligation by seeking joint custody of their child.  Do they really want to spend close to half of the time with the little one? Doubtful, at best. Their answer? “I want joint custody”. For a seasoned lawyer, we all see through this veil of nonsense.  

It is clear that Mississippi law prefers parents to agree to custodial arrangements, in large part to take a hefty load off of the backs of our strained judicial system.  Although the consequence is not intentional, many domestic lawyers get paid large sums to fight for “joint” custody for a parent who simply wants to avoid child support obligations.  So, let’s explore the impact of one child on an average man’s balance sheet, monthly.  

Per capita income in Mississippi for a single man is about $33,000.  After mandatory deductions, that number shrinks to about approximately $26,600.  That is only a little over $2,200. per month. Now, if said average income man has a child and owes support, he will owe 14% of that $2,200 in support, or about $320 per month.  Ouch to him. This figure does not include extracurricular activities, day-care, or medical and dental costs. Kids are not, and never have been cheap. If you thought that having a dog was expensive, you were wrong.  

Why are so many men pushing the narrative of “joint” custody?  Are they really concerned about being heavily involved in their childrens’ lives?  Most often they are not, but there are the rare few great men who are not as concerned about paying child support as they are about being involved in child-rearing.  These men are uncommon, but they do exist. My experience allows me to spot the fake “great dads” rather quickly. It is always about the money for them, not concern for their children and their rearing.  

Standard visitation is almost always going to be par for the course.  Judges are not usually willing, absent unusual circumstances, to rule for joint physical custody of children, and the reason is patently clear.  Chancery court judges want finality, they do not want litigants coming back every time someone moves or changes school district. Who can blame them?  They seek an efficient system no more or less than anyone else would. Joint physical child custody is about as difficult to manage as two people sharing a car.  It doesn’t work, at least not well.  

My advice is simple.  If you are the more engaged, loving, capable parent, fight for your children.  Be there to raise them in your light. Do not be intimidated by threats of “joint custody”, it is often just a scheme to avoid child support.  Trust your God-given instincts. If he truly does care enough, joint physical custody is always a consideration. If he is looking to save a few bucks, fight at every corner for your little ones.  (Sorry guys, but this is the way it plays out 90+ percent of the time, and I am one of you). In the end, good will always defeat bad intention, but you have to muster the will to fight for what is right.


Matthew Poole is a 2015 and 2018 N.F.L.A. Mississippi top ten domestic attorney, 2019 Birdeye Top Mississippi Famliy Lawyer, and 2004 Steen Reynolds Trial Competition Finalist.  He lives in Northeast Jackson with his 9 year old son, Lucas.

Are Demands for Joint Child Custody Legitimate? Less Often Than You May Think

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

First, I would like to suggest that anyone reading this go back to the prior post that relates quite directly to this topic. In short, that post essentially is an exploration as to the risks and rewards of children sharing near-equal time with both parents. There has been significant debate on the question of whether our court mandated restrictions on joint physical child custody is helpful or hurtful to innocent lives.

It is more than remotely possible that we will soon see legislation which attempts to level the playing field for non-custodial parents. As such, there is an entirely different lens by which to consider requests for joint custody; ask yourself, is it often being used as a tool to avoid child support obligations? My answer is an unequivocal YES.

At my office, a common topic of conversation revolves around what it means to be an ideal client. We receive possibly in excess of 10 calls per month that start the same way. “Mr. Poole, I want joint custody of my child”. I always make sure to attempt quickly ascertaining whether the caller, by and large the father, truly can and does have the motivation to seek joint physical custody. More often than not, these callers are delinquent in child support and will do just about anything to lessen their loads. These are not ideal clients for a single father like myself….not even close.

We love nothing more than fighting for the ideal parent, whose sole motivation is derived from love for their kids. Often, fathers are properly motivated and well-intentioned, but unfortunately this is not always the case. An ideal client is first an ideal parent. Seems simple enough, right? Never forget that, as noted in our previous article a parent will almost never be granted true equal custody. Standard visitation is the law of the land with a few notable exceptions, most often being agreement or preclusion based on employment obligations.

What can we learn here? A few couple of things stand out to me. First, non-custodial parents are often not motivated by the right things. Secondly, there would not be such a huge amount of domestic litigation if everyone were reasonable. Kids are expensive, and mom and dad need to partner for the sake of their little ones. Avoiding payment of support is the oldest trick in the book, but a fair result is always possible. Unfortunately for a parent who is ill-motivated, they can and will be easily exposed.

Matthew Poole is a Jackson, MS family lawyer focused on results in challenging custody and divorce matters. He is a 2001 Millsaps Second Century Scholar and Finalist of Steen Reynolds, and Dalehite Trial Competition.

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.

How do Mississippi Courts View Joint Physical Custody Arrangements?

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Very commonly our office receives inquiry from parents seeking to obtain joint physical custody of a minor child or children. It is first important to recognize the distinction between legal and physical custody, which topic has been discussed in several of our previous posts, but I digress. The basic logic that is employed by the majority of Chancery Court judges in Mississippi is that it is preferable for a minor to have a primary physical residence, i.e., a soft place to land on a consistent basis without excessive “switching” of residences. Also, consider that most public school districts require proof of primary residence (as in one primary “home”) in order to meet admission criteria.

It is notable that statute in Mississippi mandates, with rare exception, that courts must approve of joint physical custody agreements. Therein is the rub: rarely are former lovers able to form an agreement that both can live with due to the highly emotional nature of child custody litigation whether in a divorce or otherwise.

There is no question that most commonly chancery judges prefer to award primary physical custody to the person deemed to be the better parent (based upon the best interests of the child) and to grant only standard visitation to the other. Standard visitation will be discussed at length in an upcoming entry, but basically consists of every other weekend, 10 days during the Christmas Holidays, alternating major holidays/birthdays, and two 2-week periods of summer visitation.

There are several judges we deal with on a regular visitation that local domestic attorneys refer to as “standard visitation” judges. They are not often inclined to deviate much, if at all, from standard visitation. That being said, there are others who will more creatively craft a schedule which is in excess of that contemplated by the statutes that clarify the meaning of standard visitation.

Many factors are at play, but for the purpose of this article we will exclude the chancellors who are not inclined to deviate from the basic fundamentals of standard visitation. This is not to say that many chancery judges cannot be convinced to award joint physical custody in spite of an inclination otherwise. Again, it is absolutely crucial that we are discussing this basic principle within the context of matters where a custody agreement cannot be reached by the parents.

In short, it should always be the first order of business to attempt to forge a joint custody agreement with your child’s other parent. If you are reading this, you have likely already recognized that it is much easier said than done. Only after you have turned over every stone to work together without success should you consider filing a contested custody matter.

When litigating child custody matters, always remember that joint physical custody of your minor children becomes more difficult the further away you live from the other parent. If you do in fact live relatively closely to your child’s other parent and you have a relatively healthy relationship with them and are able to communicate without significant friction, particularly regarding your child’s well-being, your odds of the court awarding joint physical custody increase a great deal.

It is always a partial victory, even when denied equal custody, to be awarded additional time with your children beyond standard visitation. Chancellors have broad discretion in these matters and may craft a visitation schedule in any number of ways, so make sure your attorney has considered making the vast array of arguments that suit your unique set of facts. Do not forget that tax consequences of a minor’s residence are most commonly based upon their primary residence unless agreed to otherwise.

If you have been unable to reach an agreement with your child’s father or mother regarding joint custody or to obtain something in excess of standard visitation, we will utilize all existing case law, statute, as well as subjective factual argument to your advantage.

Matthew Poole, Esq.,

Jackson, Mississippi

601-573-7429