Facing a child custody battle is never easy, and an already painful situation can be exacerbated if you are uncertain about your legal rights, or unable to reach a compromise.
In a time when emotions are running high, it is important that you have all the facts at hand to allow calm, rational decisions to be made, and ensure that the best interests of the child are met at every stage of the process.
My name is Loyd Bourgeois. My team and I compassionately guide people just like you…those making tough decisions and facing tough child custody battles. And, we welcome the opportunity to guide you.
Types of Custody
Louisiana recognizes two types of child custody: joint and physical.
Physical custody focuses on the place where your child or children live.
Parents may be awarded joint custody - known legally as joint physical custody - or sole physical custody - this is where the children reside with just one parent.
Where possible, a judge will typically prefer to award joint physical custody, due to the belief that it is in the best interests of the child to enjoy an ongoing relationship with both parents.
In this instance, a domiciliary parent will be appointed - this is the party with whom the child will have their primary residence, even if the arrangement is a 50/50 split.
In some cases, however, joint custody is not always possible - one parent may live a great distance away, or there may be issues with abuse or abandonment which means that contact is not recommended.
Legal custody refers to all of the other decisions involved in providing care for a child, including choosing schools, extracurricular activities and clubs, medical treatment, religious observances, and other key decisions.
As with physical custody, this can be shared (joint legal custody) or awarded to just one parent (sole legal custody).
Once again, a shared arrangement will be sought where possible; it is important that both parents have a say in these crucial decisions unless there is a good reason to think otherwise.
Do I Need To Go To Court For Custody?
Wherever possible, going to court to battle it out over child custody arrangements should be the final option - these cases can be very stressful for your children, and may also be expensive.
In most cases, parents will be advised to try mediation or negotiation to try and come to an agreement, and this allows an amicable arrangement to be reached without the need for court interference.
In some cases, however, this may be impossible, especially in situations where abuse has taken place, or the split has been bitter.
If one parent has serious concerns over the safety of the children involved, a courtroom is also the best place to have this conversation and ensure that safety considerations are taken into account in a custody agreement.
Our child custody attorneys Loyd Bourgeois and Lucy Killen have experience negotiating child custody arrangements at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in Hahnville. They will work with you in and out of court for the best possible solution for you and your family.
How Do Judges Decide Custody in Luling, LA?
If you do go to court, a family law judge will oversee the case using a legal standard which is known as the “best interests of the child” to determine the allocation of custody.
The goal is to ensure that the child has minimal disruption to their daily lives and that a positive relationship can be continued with both parents - unless there is a good reason why this should not occur.
Some of the key factors to be considered will include:
- The age of the child
- Any health and social requirements of the child, and how well these needs can be met by each parent
- The current living situation of the child, and whether or not this is currently providing a stable, nurturing environment
- Any relationships the child may have with significant people in each parents life - e.g. grandparents, aunts, or cousins, and the opportunity for interaction
- Other children whose custody is relevant to the custody arrangement of this child
- The wishes of the child, proving that they are old enough to understand and capable express a reasonable preference
- The physical and mental health of both parents
- The ability and willingness of both parents to share custody
- Whether or not one parent is likely to offer support in retaining a relationship with the other parent
- Religious or cultural consideration
- Any history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, criminal charges, neglect, or substance abuse
Judges will use a number of sources to help them gather this information and reach an informed decision, and this may include:
- The parents themselves
- Reliable witnesses who are familiar with the child's situation, including teachers or social workers
- Professionals assigned to assist with the custody arrangement, such as social workers or mental health professionals
Can The Custody Arrangement Be Changed?
The priority of any judge in a child custody arrangement is to secure the best situation for the child involved at that moment in time.
In some cases, there may be room to change the custody and visitation arrangement in the future; perhaps one parent seeks counseling or assistance for substance abuse, or the relationship between the parents becomes more amicable.
In these situations, both parties will need to work with a judge and request to modify the parenting agreement.
The legal standards required depend on the type of order which is in place.
A consent decree is an order which both parties have agreed to - this can be changed by demonstrating that there has been a material change in circumstances and that the proposed change is in the best interest of the child in question.
A considered decree is one that is made by a judge, following the hearing of evidence. Changes to these orders can only be made in very specific circumstances, and only after it has been proven that the current order is not in the best interest of the child - a lot of evidence is needed for this.
Do You Need a Child Custody Attorney in Luling, LA?
If you are facing the prospect of a difficult child custody case, or simply seeking advice on your current position and best next steps, it is imperative that you seek the services of a trained, experienced child custody lawyer in Luling who can advise you on the best way to proceed.
Get in touch today, and see how we could help you move forward.