What Is the Mississippi Best Interest of the Child Standard?


Understand the common factors Mississippi’s judges use when making child custody decisions.



Mississippi courts use the "best interest of the child" standard to make child custody decisions at the time of divorce or separation. This rule was described in the Mississippi Supreme Court case Albright v. Albright in 1983:

[T]he polestar consideration in child custody cases is the best interest and welfare of the child.  

How Courts Make Child Custody Decisions in Mississippi: The Albright Factors

In the Albright case, the court directed judges to consider the following factors when deciding a custody case. These are often called the Albright factors:

  • the age, health and sex of the child
  • which parent cared most continuously for the child before the parents separated
  • which parent has the best parenting skills and the willingness and ability to provide primary child care
  • the employment situation of both parents
  • each parent's age and physical and mental health
  • the strength of the emotional ties between each parent and the child
  • each parent's moral fitness
  • the child’s home, school and community record
  • the child's wishes, if the child is mature enough to express a preference
  • the stability of the home environment and employment of each parent.

This is not a complete list of factors that the judge may consider. The law gives Mississippi judges flexibility to weigh any other factors the judge considers relevant when establishing parental rights and responsibilities.

Court Should be Your Last Resort

Going to court to get custody of a child will be stressful for you and, worse, tough on the children. Also, because judges have so much flexibility to make custody decisions, it leaves the family vulnerable to the biased opinions of individual judges -- for example, when determining "moral fitness." For these reasons and more, a court case is something to pursue only if all other options—like negotiation and mediation—have failed. Take advantage of all the resources available to you for creating a parenting plan before subjecting yourself and your kids to a court battle.

More Information

Studying the law. This article summarizes the key factors courts use to make custody decisions in Mississippi. That said, family law is a complicated subject and laws do change. We recommend that you continue to do your own research on the subject.

You may find it helpful to read Mississippi Law on Custody and Visitation, published by the Missippi Bar Association.

Working with a lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer, mediator, or both, ask them for help understanding how Mississippi law applies to your specific circumstances.

How to Find a Child Custody Lawyer in Mississippi

Finding your local family court. In Mississippi, family law cases are handled in the county chancery courts. Be sure to take advantage of any resources your court offers.

Mississippi Family Law Court for Panola County

Other self-help resources. If you need help finding your way around the family court system or if you need legal help and can't afford a lawyer, see the resources offered by MS Legal Services.


Jurisdictional relevance: ST

There are versions of this article for each State.