Child Custody Attorney in Louisiana
If you are considering divorce, your children’s welfare is probably your primary worry and concern. You and your spouse may have even known this day has been coming for years, but you stayed together because of the kids. Now that the time is here, what issues will you need to address?
It is best to remember something that your kids know instinctively: You were a good and loving parent before the divorce; you will be a good and loving parent afterward. Yes, your time with them may change, but your love for them — and theirs for you — won’t. Many people find they can be better, more attentive parents after the divorce, because the distraction of a failing marriage is no longer a major part of their lives.
“You have been making wise and loving decisions for your children since they were born. You’ve always done your best to see that they had everything they really needed. You loved them and protected them. This won’t change because you are going through your divorce. You were a good parent before the divorce and you will be a good parent after the divorce.” Excerpt from Divorce in Louisiana, The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What To Expect.
In Louisiana, Custody Does Not Mean Ownership
Louisiana family law judges do everything they can to protect the child’s best interests and well-being throughout the divorce process and in the final custody and parenting plan. In Louisiana, judges award either joint custody or sole custody as part of the final divorce judgment. Joint custody does not necessarily mean splitting living arrangements of the child 50-50. Shared custody splits the child’s living arrangements between the parents; however, judges are increasingly frowning on making the child move back and forth between parents’ homes if the parents live too far apart.
Joint custody simply means that both parents must be involved in joint decisions regarding matters such as health care, education and social activities. Sole custody means that the custodial parent may make decisions alone, but it does not mean there will be no parenting time awarded to the other parent. Awarding custody to one parent does not mean control over the parenting schedule. In fact, even if child support payments are late, the custodial parent may not legally withhold parenting time from the noncustodial parent.
Joint custody obligates the parents to exchange information concerning the health, education and welfare of the children and speak with the other parent in making decisions. If you and the other parent are unable to reach agreement, you may need to return to mediation or to court for the decision to be made.*
Joint legal custody works when there is:
- Effective and open communication between the parents concerning the child and a strong desire on the part of both parents to continue to co-parent together
- A history of active involvement of both parents in the child’s life as well as similar parenting values held by both parents
- A willingness on the part of both parents to place the child’s needs before their own
- A willingness on the part of both parents to be flexible and compromising about making decisions concerning the child
What Judges Consider
During the discovery phase of the divorce process, experts in the field of child welfare and child psychology may be called upon to provide testimony and evidence regarding the parents’ fitness to retain custody over the children.
The judge reviews the depositions and documents and makes a custody ruling based on factors such as:
- The home environment: Does the child feel secure and well-cared for in a clean and healthy living space?
- Emotional ties to a particular parent: Has the child developed an unusually strong bond and feeling of security with one specific parent?
- Age and sex of the child: Is it most appropriate for the child to remain with either parent because of the child’s age or sex?
- Health of the parents: Is one parent experiencing physical or mental health issues that may impact the ability to be an effective parent?
- Moral fitness: Does either parent engage in activities that may negatively influence the child’s moral character?
- The child’s preference: If the child is a young teenager and demonstrates the judgment and character to make a decision, the judge may grant the child’s desire to be awarded to a particular parent.
- These are just some of the considerations judges in Louisiana must weigh when making a custody decision.
Remember, a parent who is not granted custody does not lose visitation rights (parenting time), except under circumstances that make it unsafe for the child. Even then, special arrangements for supervised visitation may be available.
If You Have Questions, Call The Right Lawyer Now
Learn more about Louisiana child custody and visitation rights. Schedule a consultation with attorney Betsy A. Fischer. Call 504-780-8232 or contact the law offices in Metairie, Louisiana, by email.
*Excerpted from Child Custody chapter, Divorce in Louisiana, The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What To Expect