Child Custody and The Best Interest of the Child
The judge considers many factors in determining child custody. Most important is “the best interests of the child.” To determine best interests, the judge may look at the following factors:
This refers to the respective environments offered by you and your spouse. The court may consider factors such as the safety, stability, and nurturing found in each home.
The emotional relationship between the child and each parent may include the nature of the bond between the parent and child and the feelings shared between the child and each parent.
Age, Sex, and Health of the Child and Parents
Louisiana no longer ascribes to the “tender years” doctrine, which formerly gave a preference for custody of very young children to the mother. If one of the parents has an illness that may impair the ability to parent, it may be considered by the court. Similarly, the judge may look at special health needs of a child.
Effect on the Child of Continuing or Disrupting an Existing Relationship
This factor might be applied in your case if you stayed at home for a period of years to care for your child, and awarding custody to the other parent would disrupt your relationship with your child.
Attitude and Stability of Each Parent’s Character
The court may consider your ability and willingness to be cooperative with the other parent in deciding who should be awarded custody. The court may also consider each parent’s history, which reflects the stability of his or her character.
Moral Fitness of Each Parent, Including Sexual Conduct
The extent to which a judge assesses the morals of a parent can vary greatly from judge to judge. Sexual conduct will ordinarily not be considered unless it has harmed your child or your child was exposed to sexual conduct.
Capacity to Provide Physical Care and Satisfy Educational Needs
Here the court may examine whether you or the other parent is better able to provide for your child’s daily needs such as nutrition, health care, hygiene, social activities, and education. The court may also look to see whether you or your spouse has been attending to these needs in the past.
Preferences of the Child
The child’s preference regarding custody will be considered if the child is of sufficient age of comprehension, regardless of chronological age, and the child’s preference is based on sound reasoning. Louisiana, unlike some other states, does not allow a child to choose the parent he or she wishes to live with. Rather, the court may consider the well-reasoned preferences of a child, at any age. Typically, the older the child, the greater the weight given to the preference. However, the child’s reasoning is also important.
Health, Welfare, and Social Behavior of the Child
Every child is unique. Your child’s needs must be considered when it comes to deciding custody and parenting time. The custody of a child with special needs, for example, may be awarded to the parent who is better able to meet those needs.
The judge may also consider whether you or your spouse has fulfilled the role of primary care provider for meeting the day-to-day needs of your child.
One tool to assist you and your attorney in establishing your case as a primary care provider is a chart indicating the care you and the other parent have each provided for your child. The clearer you are about the history of parenting, the better job your attorney can do in presenting your case to the judge.
Look at the activities in the chart to help you review the role of you and your spouse as care providers for your child.
Parental Roles Chart
|Attended prenatal medical visits
|Attended prenatal class
|Took time off work after child born
|Got up with child for feedings
|Got up with child when sick at night
|Put child to sleep
|Prepared and fed meals to child
|Helped child learn numbers, letters, colors, etc.
|Helped child with practice for music, dance lessons, sports
|Took time off work for child’s appointments
|Stayed home from work with sick child
|Took child to doctor visits
|Went to pharmacy for child’s medication
|Administered child’s medication
|Took child to therapy
|Took child to optometrist
|Took child to dentist
|Took child to get haircuts
|Bought clothing for child
|Bought school supplies for child
|Transported child to school
|Picked child up after school
|Drove car pool for child’s school
|Went to child’s school activities
|Helped child with homework and projects
|Attended parent-teacher conferences
|Helped in child’s classroom
|Chaperoned child’s school trips and activities
|Transported child to daycare
|Communicated with daycare providers
|Transported child from daycare
|Attended daycare activities
|Signed child up for sports, dance, music
|Bought equipment for sports, music, dance
|Transported child to sports, music, dance
|Attended sports, music, dance practices
|Attended sports games, music, dance recitals
|Coached child’s sports
|Transported child from sports, music, dance
|Know child’s friends and friends & family
|Took child to religious education
|Participated in child’s religious education
|Obtained information and training about special needs of child
|Comforted child during times of emotional upset
Domestic violence is an important factor in determining custody, as well as parenting time and protection from abuse during the transfer of your child to the other parent. If domestic violence is a concern in your case, be sure to discuss it in detail with your attorney during the initial consultation so that every measure can be taken to protect the safety of you and your children.