Determining child custody is an important and often stressful element of the divorce process. But there are many misconceptions that people who are unfamiliar with the process have about how child custody works. These falsities can lead to misunderstanding and miscommunication and may even drive a wedge between you and your former spouse.

However, when you take the time to get to know the truth behind these child custody myths, you can get a better grasp of the process and prepare yourself for what is to come.

Child custody disagreements must be settled in court

Many contested child custody cases do end up in court, but that’s usually only when neither parent is willing to negotiate. However, going to court is not the only way to settle a child custody dispute.

If both parents disagree over child custody but are willing to work through their disagreement to find a solution that works for everyone, mediation is an available option. It is a cost-effective, time-saving method that can benefit all parties involved, most of all your children.

Mothers always win custody

One of the most common misconceptions about child custody is that the mother will always win custody of the children, particularly the younger children. This, however, is untrue.

Courts do not generally award or deny a parent custody based on their parental role. Both fathers and mothers have equal chances of winning custody. A judge will decide based on which parent will better meet the child’s physical and emotional needs.

Children can choose which parent they want to live with

In Mississippi, children who are 12 years or older can express their preferences for which parent they would like to live with. However, this is not the sole determinant that a judge takes into consideration when deciding custody.

Rather, a judge will first and foremost look at factors that determine the best interests of the child. This includes the physical and mental well-being of both parents, the safety and security of both parents’ living arrangements and the financial stability and responsibility of both parents. A child over the age of 12 may express their wishes, but it generally does not have a great impact on final rulings.

Don’t go into divorce unprepared

Knowing what to expect from the child custody process can help you prepare and plan for your family’s future. While it may not be an easy time in your life, dispelling these myths can help you find the best possible outcome for your children.