Area of Law:
When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions about the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own, but if they do not, Louisiana courts will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child.
There are typically several different custody arrangements that may be made for children of divorced parents. In most cases, courts will award physical custody to one party with whom the child will live most of the time. The parent with physical custody, or the custodial parent, often shares legal custody, or the right to make decisions regarding the child, with the non-custodial parent. Many child custody arrangements involve joint custody in which the child spends a relatively equal amount of time with each parent.
Louisiana courts generally award joint custody to both parents with one parent designated as the primary custodial parent. The other parent receives reasonable visitation, such as every other weekend, holidays, and several weeks in the summer. If the parties do not agree on an arrangement, the court will commonly have the parents and children evaluated by a custody specialist, who then will make a recommendation to the court. The spouses either agree with the recommendations of the specialist or they have the option of going to trial to determine custody. Divorcesupport.com provides a full list of child custody factors considered in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, there is a preference that custody is awarded to both parents, either parent, to the person or persons with whom the child has been living, or to any other person that the court feels is suitable and able to provide an adequate and stable environment for the child. Unless the parents agree otherwise, Louisiana law presumes that joint custody is in the best interests of the child and will be awarded by Louisiana courts based on the following factors:
- Physical, emotional, mental, religious, and social needs of the child
- Capability and desire of each parent to meet the child's needs
- Preference of the child, if the child is of a sufficient age and capacity
- The love and affection existing between the child and each parent
- Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- Desire and ability of each parent to allow an open and loving frequent relationship between the child and the other parent
- Wishes of the parents
- Child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
- Mental and physical health of all persons involved
- Permanence as a family unit of the existing or proposed custodial home
- Distance between the potential residences
- Moral fitness of the parents
- Any other relevant factor
For a full review of divorce and child custody laws in the state of Louisiana, go to lawyers.com.