Louisiana Child Custody Laws: Joint vs. Sole Custody Awards

Find out how Louisiana courts determine who gets custody of the children.

Like most states, the Louisiana child custody laws are primarily based upon what is in the "best interests of the child." If both parents can reach an agreement regarding who will have primary physical custody, the court will likely approve their proposed arrangement as long as it serves the child’s best interests.

Determining Custody Arrangements

If parents cannot agree on reasonable custody and parenting arrangments that meet their child's best interests, a court will have to decide.

A family court judge will want to examine several factors before making a decision pertaining to child custody. When considering the future of the children, the following will be of primary importance:

  • the bond of the child with each parent and the amount of love and affection between them
  • the capability of each spouse to provide basic necessities, such as food, clothing, school supplies, healthcare, and dental treatments
  • the morality of each spouse and how it might affect the welfare of the children
  • the mental and physical health of both parents
  • the child’s background, including his or her home and school, and the stability of these environments
  • the physical, emotional, mental, social and religious needs of the child, and whether one parent meets these needs better than the other
  • how the child will adjust to the new home and community, and
  • the distance between the residences of each spouse.

The parent who is not given primary physical custody will be entitled to visitation, unless there is proof that the child was physically or sexually abused by that parent, or some other factor makes visitation contrary to the child's best interests.

When Sole Custody May Be Awarded

The preference that most judges follow is to give both parents custody of the kids. If parents submit a plan to the court for joint custody, it must include information about:

  • where the child will live
  • the amount of child support that will be paid
  • how the parents will communicate about parenting issues, and
  • how and when each parent will have access to the child.

It is extremely rare for courts to award sole legal and sole physical custody to one parent, unless the judge finds that one parent is unfit. Some examples of this could be due to:

  • a history of violence towards others
  • substance abuse or addiction, or
  • child abuse or neglect, including emotional, physical, sexual, and mental abuse.

If a court finds a parent to be unfit, and grants sole legal and physical custody to the fit parent, the judge may still allow supervised visitation to the unfit parent, if it benefits the child in some way. This means that the noncustodial parent, who has for example, an addiction to alcohol, may be able to see his or her children, but only while being supervised by a third party, who can ensure the children remain safe during the visit.

Louisiana child custody laws also allow a third party to obtain custody. For example, when the children have been living in a stable and happy home with a relative or individual that has a close connection with the kids, a court may grant that person custody.

Getting Advice From a Louisiana Family Lawyer

Before you make any decisions regarding the future of your children, it might be best to consult with a legal expert. If you are seeking sole custody, there are certain reasons why a judge may not grant your petition. If you're trying to get the kids out of vindictiveness against your spouse, this will not be viewed favorably by the court. Therefore, it's important to speak with a family law attorney prior to signing any type of custoday agreement, so that you understand your rights.

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