by Jake Adams
In Parra v. Parra, No. 2010-CA-00339-COA, a Warren County divorce, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the child custody decision of the Chancery Court because in awarding custody of the children to the father, the Judge failed to make specific findings of fact as to the Albright Factors.
Child custody determinations in Mississippi divorce cases must be based on the Albright Factors, which are as follows:
1. The age, health, and sex of the child;
2. a determination of the parent who had the continuity of care prior to separation;
3. which parent has the best parenting skills and which has the willingness and capacity to provide primary childcare;
4. the employment of the parent and the responsibilities of that employment;
5. the physical and mental health and age of the parents;
6. the emotion ties of parent and child;
7. moral fitness of the parents;
8. the home, school, and community record of the child;
9. the preference of the child at the age sufficient to express a preference by law;
10. the stability of the home environment; and
11. other factors relevant to the parent-child relationship.
Cases involving a determination of child custody require the Court to make specific findings as to each of these factors. By requiring the trial court to make findings as to each of these factors, and the polestar consideration of the child’s best interest, the Appellate Court accomplishes two great purposes.
First, the decision of the Court is not made in the dark. The factors allow litigants to know exactly what proof they need, and after hearing the Court’s findings as to each factor can know how the Court reached its decision.
Second, the factual findings as to each of the factors allows for accurate appellate review of the lower court’s custody decision.
Thus, while establishing the Albright factors may be a daunting task for litigants and making findings as to each may be equally tedious for trial courts, the factors are a wonderful tool for protecting the most important thing of all – the children.