When it comes to child custody, Louisiana Courts base their decisions on what’s in the best interest of the child. If parents can come to an agreeable custody arrangement that serves the child’s best interest, then judges will usually sign off on what the parents have agreed to. However, if the parents cannot form an agreement or their agreement is not in the best interest of the child, then the Court will make the decision. In doing so, Louisiana law prefers joint custody arrangements, as the law wants to ensure both parents to have frequent and continual contact with their child.
What should you include in any custody agreement with your spouse?
Prior to signing any custody agreement with the other parent, you should make sure that the agreement includes at a minimum, the following information:
- How you and the other parent will split the physical custody of the child(ren), meaning exactly what days of the week and during what times during those days that each of you will have the physical custody.
- How you and the other parent will split the physical custody of the child(ren) during holidays, summer months while they are out of school, and on the birthdays for the child, the other parent, and yourself.
- How much vacation time you and the other parent will have with the child(ren).
- A provision that states that the holiday periods, birthdays, summer schedule, and vacation schedules supersede the normal custody schedule.
- The location that you and the other parent will exchange the minor child(ren).
- That you and the other parent must exchange contact information and if any contact information ever changes, then that person must update the other parent with the new contact information.
- If another individual lives at the other parent’s residence, whether that parent is allowed to leave the child(ren) under the care and custody of that individual. If so, the language should require the other parent to provide you with that person’s contact information and any updates to that contact information if it changes.
- Whether you, the other parent, or anyone else (e.g. your family members) will have access to communicate with the child(ren) while they are in the other parent’s custody. If so, it should state the how often the communication can occur, how it will occur (telephone, in person, etc.), and what times it will occur.
- Whether you, the other parent, or both of you will have access to information related to the child(ren)’s health records, dental records, educational records, and any other information.
- Who will have the power to make major decisions about the child(ren) or whether both of you will have the power to make those decisions, such as what school he/she attends, what medical providers they will see, and others.
What factors are considered for custody arrangements by courts?
If the Court ends up having to decide the custody arrangement, the Courts will consider several factors when determining the best interest of the child(ren). Put in layman’s terms, here are some of the factors at play:
- How close the child is to you and the other parent, i.e. how much fondness the child and the parent have for each other.
- You and the other parent’s ability to provide for your child or children? Can you feed them, clothe them, get them to the doctor if they need medical attention, and provide other needs?
- How likely are you and the other parent to give the child(ren) the love, affection, spiritual guidance, and educational guidance that it needs.
- How do you and the other parent live your lives? Are ya’ll moral people? Are either of you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Are either of you physically or verbally abusive?
- How healthy are you and the other parent. Can you physically provide and maintain custody of the child(ren)?
- The mental stability of you and the other parent. Are you able to mentally handle the needs of the child(ren)? Are you able to mentally handle the child(ren) living with you for extended periods of time?
- How stable are you and the other parent’s home? How long has the minor child(ren) lived in either home and can the minor child(ren) continue to live in that home?
- Whether either you and the other parent are willing to encourage a good relationship between the child(ren) and either one of y’all.
- How far do you and the other parent live from each other? Is it too far to exchange the minor child for a certain number of times?
- Who has been providing the primary care of the child(ren), such providing food, clothing, a home, and transportation for the child(ren).
- If old enough to decide, whether the child(ren) prefers to live with you or the other parent.
- Where has the child(ren) been attending school?
The Courts have the ability to decide which factors are more or less important to the best interest of a certain child. The Courts can also consider other factors not mentioned above.
When Do Judges Grant Sole Custody?
In most cases, the judge will usually grant custody rights to both parents (joint custody), even if the child resides primarily with one parent. In such a case, both parents will usually have a set number of days of physical custody of the child(ren), the right to make certain decisions about the child(ren), and the ability to gain access to certain information about the child(ren). However, if joint custody is not in the best interest of the child for reasons proven at Court, the judge may grant sole custody to one parent or another person (e.g. grandparent). The following are critical factors that usually influence a judge’s decision to grant sole custody:
- Do you have a record of violence, toward your ex, yourself or others?
- Do you have a history of substance abuse or drug/alcohol addiction?
- Have you ever been accused of child abuse or neglecting your child?
If you or the other parent is considering a custody agreement, you should consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that the agreement is fair and is in the best interest of the child(ren). An experienced family law attorney knows the issues that could arise from a custody agreement and what important provisions need to be included in it.
In Need of a Baton Rouge Family Law Attorney?
Danny Russell is a divorce and family law attorney in the Baton Rouge area who has experience in dealing with a wide range of family law matters, such as divorce, child custody, child support, visitation, spousal support, and community property partitions. He knows divorce and family law in Louisiana and how courts usually side on family law matters. He will carefully assess those things most important to you, explain how the law applies to your circumstances, and help you make decisions that affect your relationships and financial stability. If you are in need of a Baton Rouge family law attorney, contact the Russell Law Firm. ****Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.