When a family situation changes or a suspicion of child endangerment exists, Mississippi courts consider any custody arrangement to have the status of a "temporary custody arrangement" until the court rules on a permanent custody arrangement. The courts may order an evaluation of the child's best interests before determining his permanent custody arrangements. Mississippi law guides the child's family and the professionals during the child's temporary custody.
After parental separation, if one parent feels that he should retain custody because it serves the child's best interests or, specifically, because the child might suffer abuse or neglect at the hands of the other parent, the parent can petition the local Mississippi Family Court for temporary custody until a full evaluation of the permanent custody arrangements can take place. During this period, the custodial parent may petition the court for child support from the non-custodial parent. In deciding about the child's permanent custody, the court may order an evaluation in which a social worker will visit the child and interview her to try to evaluate the child's desires and best interests. Mississippi courts make every effort to include the child's wishes when moving from a temporary custody arrangement to a permanent custody arrangement.
In Case of Suspected Abuse or Neglect
If a report of suspected abuse or neglect has been filed regarding a child, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) will--if it deems the report creditable--privately interview the child, all members of the child's family and a non-family member who knows the child. If DHS believes that abuse or neglect has occurred, and it believes that harm may come to the child it he continues to live in his home, DHS may approach the Mississippi Youth Court to request that the court issue an order to take the child into temporary custody for 48 hours. The judge may wish to question whether the circumstances pose an immediate threat to the child and whether DHS has made reasonable efforts to maintain the child within his own home. The judge may also wish to question whether a reasonable alternative to custody exists, as taking a child into temporary custody should become DHS's last resort.
Moving to Permanent Custody
A Mississippi Youth Court judge may award temporary custody to another family member or person who plays a part in the child's life. The judge will expect DHS staff to make every effort to find a permanent custody arrangement for the child as soon as possible if it is decided that the child cannot return to his family. Mississippi law demands that DHS make every effort to restore children to their families in cases where the DHS removed the children. The DHS, according to Mississippi law, must then provide services to the child and her family to ensure that the situation will not endanger the child's health and safety.