How do courts determine who gets custody of children in a divorce?

How do courts determine who gets custody of children in a divorce?

Father and daughters excitedly greet one another during custodial visitIn determining custody, Louisiana laws focus on what is in the best interest of the child. If the parents are on amicable terms and reach an agreement regarding primary custody, the judge will likely approve the arrangement as long as it functions in the child’s best interests.

If the parents are not on amicable terms or cannot reach an agreement, the judge will have to make the decision regarding custody.

As you can probably infer, the custody process goes more smoothly if parents can agree; realistically, that’s not always the case. If you and the other parent are not on amicable terms or cannot reach an agreement concerning custody of your child, you’ll need an experienced Lake Charles family law attorney to assist you.

Lawyers at The Johnson Firm are skilled and knowledgeable in family law, and we’ll work hard to obtain the best outcome for you and your child. For more information, call us at (337) 433-1414.

Determining Custody Arrangements in Louisiana

In Louisiana, family court judges consider several factors before making their decision of which parent will retain primary custody. These are some of the factors they’ll consider:

  • The potential for the child to be abused, which is the primary consideration.
  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties between each parent and the child.
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and spiritual guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child.
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, adequate environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity of that environment.
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
  • The moral fitness of each parent, insofar as it affects the welfare of the child.
  • The history of substance abuse, violence, or criminal activity of any parent.
  • The mental and physical health of each parent. Evidence that an abused parent suffers from the effects of past abuse by the other parent shall not be grounds for denying that parent custody.
  • The home, school, and community history of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent, except when objectively substantial evidence of specific abusive, reckless, or illegal conduct has caused one parent to have reasonable concerns for the child’s safety or well-being while in the care of the other parent.
  • The distance between the respective residences of the parents.
  • The responsibility for the care and rearing of the child previously exercised by each parent.

After evaluating all of these factors and more, the judge will come up with a parenting plan complete with the amount of time each parent is allowed to spend with their child.

Child’s Preference

Children have their own emotions, thoughts, and preferences, and for one reason or another, they may not want to live with one of their parents. Although there is not a specific age for when the judge must consider the child’s preference of which parent to live with, Louisiana law does allow the child to express this desire.

Each judge must determine whether the child is old and mature enough to make such a decision on their own. These rulings are given on a case-by-case basis, as every child is different and has varying degrees of maturity and emotional intelligence. For instance, some six-year-olds are extremely mature for their age, so a judge may consider the child’s preference after speaking with them and realizing that they understand the implications of their decision, although this would be very rare.  Generally, Court’s have determined that a child’s opinion may be considered at age twelve.

It’s important to understand that a child’s preference will not always be granted. In considering the child’s wants, the judge will consider the rationale behind their preference. If the child doesn’t want to live with his mother because she asks him to do chores, the judge probably won’t give weight to that preference. However, if the mother has a history of domestic violence or is unable to provide basic necessities and that is why the child does not want to live with her, then the judge will take the child’s opinion into consideration.

The child’s preference is just one of the factors to be considered and that is only if the Court determines it should be considered at all.  It is not determinative and the case will be decided based on all of the factors listed above.

Our Lake Charles Child Custody Lawyers Help You Earn Time

Child custody is a unique issue and requires that the needs and best interests of the child go before the needs and best interests of the parent. At The Johnson Firm, we will represent you and fight to give you and your child the best possible outcome.

We do everything we can to help families and to make the custody process as painless as possible. If you need legal assistance with your custody matter, don’t hesitate to contact The Johnson Firm.

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