Lake Charles Child Custody Lawyers

Few aspects of the law are as emotionally charged as the issue of child custody. Louisiana law encourages parents to make decisions on child custody together and, hopefully, share equal parenting time. However, this is not always in the best interest of the children, and the court has the final say on custody and visitation arrangements. 

If you are going through a divorce with children or if you have children with someone to whom you were not married, a child custody attorney at The Johnson Firm in Lake Charles, Louisiana can help you present your case to the court, negotiate with your spouse, and seek a fair arrangement that gives you enough time with your child. 

Understanding Child Custody Types in Louisiana

There are four basic types of child custody in Louisiana: 

  • Sole custody. This means one parent has sole custody, and the other parent may have visitation rights. The custodial parent has the final say on essential decisions except for relocation, which generally requires approval from the non-custodial parent or a court. Achieving sole custody requires presenting clear and convincing evidence that it’s in the best interest of the child.
  • Joint custody. Louisiana law strongly prefers joint custody. In most cases, one parent is designated the domiciliary parent who has the authority to make significant decisions. However, the non-domiciliary parent can ask the court to review major decisions. The decision making authority can also be divided between each parent. 
  • Split custody. This is a unique arrangement where multiple children are divided among the parents. Courts do not like to separate siblings and rarely do so.
  • Non-parental custody. This arrangement grants custody to someone other than the child’s natural parent, such as a grandparent. It usually only happens when neither parent is able to raise the child. 

During a custody case, a parenting plan will be approved by the court. This plan includes which parent has physical custody, which has legal custody, and how custody and visitation are arranged. Ideally, a parenting plan should also explain how disagreements will be handled. 

It’s crucial to address both legal and physical custody in a divorce. Physical custody refers to allocating rights and responsibilities of day-to-day care of the child. The child usually lives with the parent with physical custody. A parent who has legal custody has the right to make crucial decisions such as the child’s religious upbringing, the school they attend, and medical procedures. Louisiana courts favor both parents having legal custody of the child. 

How a Louisiana Court Determines Child Custody

When parents can’t reach a reasonable agreement on child custody, a court will sometimes decide to use a custody evaluation. The judge will consider the best interests of the child and consider factors such as: 

  • The potential for the child to be abused – primary consideration
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • Which parent has provided most of the care for the child
  • Each parent’s willingness and capacity to provide food, medical care, clothing, and other needs
  • Each parent’s desire to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • Each parent’s moral fitness in terms of child welfare
  • The child’s wishes, if they are old enough

Louisiana always places the best interest of the child first. Ideally, parents reach a custody agreement without court intervention, but this isn’t always possible. To determine what is in a child’s best interest, the court will consider everything including emotional ties between the child and each parent as well as the child’s home, school, and community to make divorce as easy as possible on the child. 

How a Child Custody Lawyer in Lake Charles Can Help

Decisions about child custody and visitation aren’t easy. They’re emotionally devastating, and it’s easy for heated arguments and lengthy battles in court to come from discussions about custody. A compassionate child custody attorney will guide you through this emotionally challenging time. 

Child custody lawyers in Lake Charles will help you resolve issues with the other parent to create an appropriate parenting plan. When possible, we will work with you toward a mutually beneficial agreement to raise the children. 

If negotiations aren’t possible, and an agreement can’t be reached, your family law attorney will represent you in court during a trial. We can also help you create a custody plan for the court that clearly defines visitation and custody rights ensuring the child receives frequent contact with both parents, but protects the child above all else. 

Child Custody Modifications

If you have a custody plan, but you aren’t happy with the terms of that plan, a Lake Charles child custody attorney can help you negotiate a modification that provides you with more time with your child or better authority to make decisions. 

To modify a child custody order in Louisiana, a petition must be made to the court, followed by a hearing. You will need to submit evidence that persuades a judge that the changes are warranted and in the best interest of the child. 

Some situations also prompt an emergency custody change, including neglect, drug or alcohol abuse that threatens the child’s safety, and abuse. 

Custody modification isn’t easy in most cases and requires proving your case for the amendment. Contact The Johnson Firm if you are seeking a modification of your child custody arrangement to begin gathering the proof you will need to submit to the court. 

Child Relocation

When one parent wishes to relocate out of the state with the child, permission from the court is required. If you want to relocate or the other parent is trying to relocate, it’s essential to work with an experienced family law attorney in Lake Charles. 

Louisiana’s relocation statute applies when a parent wants to establish a primary residence with the child anywhere outside of Louisiana or more than 75 miles from the other parent’s home or current primary residence. Once this statute is triggered, specific requirements must be met to move. 

After notice is sent, the other parent has 30 days to object to the request. If an objection isn’t made, the relocating parent can move the child’s residence with Court approval. If an objection is made, the relocating parent has just 30 days to get court approval. 

If the parenting agreement grants equal physical custody, the relocating parent needs the written consent of the other parent to relocate or court authorization. 

If the parties can’t agree on the relocation, the court will decide. The relocating parent must show the relocation is made in good faith and the child’s best interest. The court will consider many factors, including: 

  • The length, quality, and extent of involvement of the relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s age, needs, and the impact the move will have on the child
  • The child’s opinion on the move
  • Whether there is a pattern of conduct by either parent that is damaging to the relationship between the child and other parent
  • How the move will affect the child’s quality of life
  • Why the parents are opposing or seeking the move
  • The employment and financial health of each parent and how the move will affect the child’s economic circumstances
  • History of violence, harassment, and substance abuse by either spouse

Contact a Family Law Attorney in Lake Charles

The Johnson Firm represents clients in all areas of divorce and child custody, including negotiating a fair custody arrangement, representation during a custody trial, modifying custody orders, and child relocation. 

Whether you are seeking court intervention or opposing the actions of the other parent, our family law lawyers are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with an experienced child custody attorney in Lake Charles, LA, to learn more about the next steps you need to take and get help pursuing a fair custody arrangement. 

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You’ll want a partner and advocate who can confidently maneuver the emotional and financial intricacies of any family law matter. From custody, child support, and community property, to adoption and prenuptial agreements, we’re committed to protecting you and the best interests of your family.