Child custody refers to the legal rights that a parent is granted upon receiving custody of their child in a divorce setting or in the case of the separation of their parents. For instance, a parent with legal custody over their child has the right to make important legal decisions on behalf of the child, such as decisions regarding medical treatment.
A parent with physical custody of their child has the right to live with the child and make basic decisions regarding the daily care of the child, such as non-invasive medical care decisions or religious decisions. In general, the residence of the parent with the majority physical custody of the child is considered to be the child’s primary residence.
A parent with child custody rights has many legal rights, including but not limited to:
- The legal right to make education decisions for the child, such as what type of school they go to, where the child goes to school, etc.;
- The legal right to make decisions regarding what religion to raise the child in, if any;
- The legal right to receive child support payments;
- The legal right to make decisions concerning the child’s mental health care;
- The legal right to enter into certain legal contracts on behalf of the child or make legal decisions concerning the child; and
- Make decisions regarding the child’s health care, including the child’s dental care.
Similar to other states, Louisiana law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without the necessity of court intervention. If the parents are able to reach an agreed parenting plan, they can then submit it to the court for the judge’s signature without the necessity of a contested hearing.
However, if the parents of a child are unable to reach an agreed custody arrangement, then they will be able to bring the issue to a local family law court in their jurisdiction. A Louisiana family law court will then make custody arrangements and decisions based on the “best interest” of the child.
What Is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan is essentially a written agreement that sets out how divorcing or separating parents will share the legal and physical custody of their children. In other words, an agreed plan will cover all of the rights of the child, such as the legal rights discussed above. Agreed parenting plans will also cover whether or not one parent will be paying child or medical support, as well as which parent is to receive such support.
As mentioned above, if the parents can agree to a custody schedule and the legal and exclusive rights of their child or children, Louisiana family law courts will typically honor such parenting plans. However, the parents may not agree on a parenting plan. If not, then they will submit separate, proposed plans to the court for consideration and attend a trial regarding child custody.
There is a presumption in Louisiana family law courts that joint custody of the child is in the child’s best interest, so long as both parents have a history of acting in the child’s best interest. As such, if the parents enter into a detailed agreed parenting plan, Louisiana courts will tend to favor such agreements.
What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?
As mentioned above, when assigning and determining child custody rights in Louisiana, local family law courts and state laws place the child’s interests and background above any of the parent’s personal preferences. This standard that is used to determine child custody decisions is once again known as the child’s best interest standard. In Louisiana, the child’s best interest standard is the main standard for child custody cases.
This means that courts in Louisiana will only make child custody decisions if they benefit the child. As such, if a parent in Louisiana is considering how to obtain custody of their child or how to become a custodial parent, they must prioritize their child’s best interests. However, it is important to note that in Louisiana, family law courts have wide discretion in applying the child’s best interest standard.
When determining child custody in a Louisiana family court setting, courts will consider a wide range of factors that might affect the child’s well-being. These factors will then be balanced against the child’s best interest standard to ensure that the custody decisions do not harm or negatively affect the child in any way.
Common examples of child custody factors that are used by Louisiana courts in a divorce setting include, but are not limited to:
- Each parent’s personal relationship with the child and history of their interactions with the child;
- Each parent’s home environment, such as whether or not their home has a space for the child, other occupants of the home, etc.;
- Whether or not one parent has a history of being the primary caretaker of the child;
- The child’s background and social connections to their home, school, and neighborhood;
- Whether or not the child has significant sibling or familial connections that are present at one parent’s home;
- The mental and physical health of the child, as well as the mental health of the child’s parents;
- Whether or not the child has any specific health, medical, or psychological and emotional needs;
- The ability of the parent to provide for the child’s needs, including food, clothing, and shelter
- It is important to note that each parent’s socioeconomic background and financial capabilities to provide for the child will be taken into consideration;
- The wishes of both of the child’s biological parents.
- Once again, if both parents agree to a specific custody arrangement and parenting plan, the family law court will generally honor that arrangement; and
- The overall preferences of the child, especially if they are above a certain age.
- In Louisiana, there is no hard number or age as to when a child’s preference may be considered. This is because the law states that the child’s preference may be considered “if the child is old enough and mature enough to form an opinion.”
Once again, a family court judge in Louisiana will always base their child custody decision on what they feel is in the best interest of the child or children involved in the divorce or separation case. Although a judge will give heavy favor to an agreed parenting plan executed between the child’s biological or legal parents, the child’s well-being will always be the highest priority.
What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?
Once an agreed parenting plan has been adopted or a divorce or child custody order is signed, those orders will be filed with the court clerk. From there, both parents will be bound by the approved parenting plan or child custody order rendered by the court.
This means that both parents must follow the signed order. Further, if either parent wishes to modify the order or do something different, then such modifications must be approved by the court. In Louisiana, it is easier to modify an agreed parenting plan than it is to modify a court’s rendered custody or divorce order. A family law attorney can guide you through the modification process.
Should I Contact a Louisiana Lawyer Regarding My Custody Issues?
As can be seen, child custody disputes can often be both emotionally charged and complex. As such, if you are involved in a custody dispute regarding your child or children, you should consult with an experienced Louisiana child custody lawyer.
An experienced child custody lawyer can ensure that your parental legal rights are protected according to your state’s specific family laws. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to help you advocate for the custodial rights of your child or children. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, throughout the process.