How Do Child Custody Laws Work in Louisiana?
When parents get a divorce, whose needs count more? Those of parents? Or those of children?
Whether it is the parents discussing their child custody plans, or a court actually awarding custody, they all place the “best interests of the child” first. The family courts in Louisiana are vested with jurisdiction over child custody issues and visitation rights.
The courts do allow the divorcing parents to come up with an agreement that could translate into a legal agreement or judgment. Most divorces these days that involve children include a parenting plan that lays down all the days the child gets to spend with each parent, where the child lives, and so on. For parents, the process of agreeing on a custody arrangement is often difficult; one naturally has little desire to revisit the divorce experience. And so, it is not such a bad thing that the agreement they reach in court, typically governs the schedule and daily rhythm of the child without change until they turn 18.
Court understands how daunting it can be to divide the responsibility for child care. In the event that the parents cannot agree upon an arrangement that is good for the child, or come to a mutual decision, a judge decides whether the parents be granted joint custody, or if a third party is awarded the child’s custody, as well as who gets the child visitation rights.
In Louisiana, courts prefer that parents share the responsibility for raising their child. The reason is that joint custody ensures that the child will have a meaningful relationship with both the parents in a continuing fashion.
Then again, even if parents are awarded joint custody, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they both receive equal time with the child. It also doesn’t mean that they share the same ability to make all pivotal decisions for the child. Even in joint custody, one of the parents normally acts as the primary custodian. The other parent is entitled to visitation; it generally varies depending upon the work schedules, as well as various other factors for the parents. For example, the court may decide that a child should primarily reside with one parent because of school. In such a case, this parent will likely be designated the domiciliary parent. It is generally the domiciliary parent who has the final say in case disagreements arise between the parties, unless the non-domiciliary parent asks the court to intervene.
Then, you will also find cases where an individual who is not the child’s biological parent, called a third party, tries to gain custody of the child. If the court finds it to be an extraordinary situation, where there is a possibility of substantial harm to the minor child by any of the parents, the award of custody goes to the non-parent third party. This third party could be a relative such as a grandparent, uncle, or aunt, or a close family friend.
When it comes to authorizing a visitation schedule between the child and parents, judges have a high degree of discretion. In Louisiana, sole custody is rare. And, unless there is a reason to believe that the child’s welfare might be at risk, the court does generally grant visitation rights to the non-custodial parent. As for the grandparents, or such other non-parental relatives who have shown to have a constructive and quality relationship established with the child, the court can grant them visitation under certain circumstances.
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This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.
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