Louisiana child custody, how do courts decide?

Divorce creates many life changes for divorcing spouses and their children. Louisiana couples going through divorce have many things to think about. Child custody is likely at the front of their minds. There are many factors that go into a child custody decision, but the process can be challenging and complex. That's why it's helpful to have an experienced family law attorney to offer guidance through the process.

What types of child custody exist in Louisiana?

When courts make a child custody determination they look into what is in the best interest of the child. There are two types of custody, joint custody and sole custody. Joint custody means that parents share the decision making regarding the child and share physical custody of the child. Sole custody means that only one parent has these responsibilities.

How do Louisiana courts decide who gets custody?

The court presumes that joint custody is in the best interests of the child. A parent can rebut this presumption by providing clear and convincing evidence that sole custody is actually in the best interests of the child. There are other factors that go into the best interests of the child:

  • The parents' wishes and the child's wishes if the child is of a suitable age
  • The physical, mental and moral health of the parents
  • Who was the primary caregiver for the child
  • The child's relationship with the parents
  • The parent's ability to provide for the child and give the child guidance
  • Each parents ability to support a relationship between the child and the other parent

The court considers other factors including the child's adjustment to the school and neighborhood and histories of family violence. Each decision is made on a case by case basis. Parents can even come up with their own custody arrangement that the court approves. If a parent is awarded sole custody the other parent will likely be entitled to visitation.

Can a custody arrangement be changed?

Modification of a custody arrangement depends on whether the parents made the initial custody agreement. If the parents came up with the arrangement themselves they only have to prove a change in circumstances in order to modify custody. If the court sets the child custody agreement then the parent seeking a change must show that the change is in the best interests of the child. The parent also must show that either the harm resulting from the change is outweighed by the benefits of the change or the present custody arrangement is very harmful to the child, so much so that the change is justified.