When a relationship comes to an end, whether the couple is simply parting ways or having to go through the process of getting legally divorced, the motions of having to separate their lives can be difficult ones. This process is made even more trying when minor children are involved and there are custody issues. While Louisiana courts will always work to keep both parents involved in the children’s’ lives, there is a good possibility that one of the parents will miss out on spending time with the children, which can often make child custody issues painful and frustrating for everyone involved.
Child Custody Laws in Louisiana
During child custody cases, parents are encouraged to come up with their own parenting plan outside of the court room, either completely on their own or with the help of mediation. Should they be unable to make this decision on their own, the issue will be passed to the Louisiana family court system in order to make a custody decision that is found to be in the best interests of the children involved. Joint custody is always the first option for family court judges and is usually awarded given they do not find clear evidence this type of custody agreement will not benefit the children.
Types of Child Custody in Louisiana
As mentioned, the court is always directed to award joint custody of the children whenever possible, which means both parents will share time and responsibilities for the children involved. If there is clear and convincing evidence this is not the best arrangement for the children involved, the court will then make one of the parents the children’s primary custodian, which means the children will live with that parent for the majority of the time. The parent who is not awarded custody will be awarded visitation time in some capacity based on the specific circumstances of the case at hand.
What Determines Child Custody in Louisiana
The Louisiana family court system will treat each child custody case on an individual basis and will always begin its evaluation of the circumstances under the assumption joint custody is the best possible solution and in the best interests of the children involved. If this is proven not to be the case and the judge needs to make a decision on who will be the custodial parent, he or she will look at a number of different factors to determine which parent will make the most beneficial primary caregiver.
The judge will evaluate each parent independent from one another and will look at their characteristics, each parent’s current relationship and involvement with the children, as well as a number of other factors to decide which parent being the primary custodian will most benefit the children involved. It is imperative the judge makes a decision that will provide the children with the best possible living conditions in which they will be well cared for, loved, nurtured, and safe.
The factors in which the judge will consider comprise a very long list, some of which are dictated by state law and some of which are left to the discretion of the judge themselves. Some of the factors they will need to consider when making their decision will include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The relationship between the children and each parent, including emotional ties, affection, and love
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to provide affection, love and spiritual guidance to the children
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to cloth, feed, provide medical care, and provide other material items for the children
- The potential stability in each parent’s home environment and the parent’s willingness to maintain that stability for the sake of the children involved
- Each parent’s physical and mental health as it relates to the children involved
- The children’s current involvement and history in their current school, community, and home
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate a positive and loving relationship between the children and the other parent
- The distance between each parent’s home
- Each party’s history of caring for and raising the child
This list is by no means the end all to be all of the factors that the Louisiana court judge will consider when making their decision – the judge has the power to consider any and all factors as they relate to the children involved in the case and have a broad discretion when it comes to determining what arrangements will be in the best interests of the children. Additionally, if the children are of sufficient age, they may have the opportunity to express their preferences in the court room.
Child Custody Modification in Louisiana
Although the state of Louisiana does allow a parent to request modification to a child custody agreement, the criteria for having these modifications approved are often hard to overcome – this is due to the court system not wanting to approve unnecessary modifications and disrupting the children’s schedules and lifestyle without good reason. Should both parents agree to the modification and it is found to be in the best interests of the children, the family court judge will often approve it.
Should one parent want a modification and the other parent protest it, the requesting parent will need to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the modification is necessary. Some of the criteria they will need to meet include, but are in no way limited to, the following:
- A major change in conditions has occurred
- The proposed modification will benefit the children in some way
- The benefits of the modification will outweigh the disadvantages of having the children’s schedules disrupted
Child Custody and Relocation in Louisiana
Again, the Louisiana family court system does allow relocation requests, but the criteria for having these requests approved are high. If both parents agree to the change in address by the custodial parent and the arrangement is beneficial to the children, the family court judge will likely approve the move and have it made legally binding. Should one parent not agree to the relocation, which generally happens in cases where one parent is the custodial parent and is taking the children with them, the request will need to be reviewed and approved by the family court system.
Some of the factors that the judge will look at before making a final decision will include:
- Why the request for relocation is being made
- Why the non-custodial parent is protesting the relocation
- The proposed benefits the children will see from the relocation, such as the parent having better employment or the children being offered better educational or social opportunities
- The ages of the children involved
- If any of the children involved have any disabilities (learning, emotional or physical) that need to be considered
- The relationship between the children and both the custodial and non-custodial parent
- The relationship between the children and any siblings that may be living with either parent
- The ages and genders of the children who are living with the requesting parent
- What, if any, alternative communication methods are available in order for the non-custodial parent to keep in touch with the children and how much these communication methods cost
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