Guide to Child Custody Laws in Louisiana
Child custody laws can be a minefield for parents involved in a custody dispute. If you are a Louisiana parent who is facing custody proceedings, understanding the child custody laws in Louisiana may help you successfully negotiate with your spouse and develop a plan that works for you and your children. Louisiana's child custody laws are dictated by Louisiana Civil Code Articles 132 and 134. In general, child custody laws in Louisiana follow the guideline of seeking out whatever arrangement is in the best interests of the child. This guide will help you to understand how Louisiana courts determine a child's best interest, and eliminate a few myths and misconceptions that many parents have about child custody.
Myths About Child Custody Laws in Louisiana
If you have spoken to other divorced parents about custody arrangements, especially parents from other states, you may have mistaken ideas about the actual child custody laws in Louisiana. Every state's child custody laws are different, and what holds true in one state may not in another. For example, in Louisiana, while a judge may take a child's wishes about custody into consideration, no child is allowed to make a final custody determination. In fact, for children under the age where a judge feels they can state a reasonable preference (this is usually, but not always, around 12 years old), the child's wishes will usually not factor into the judge's decision at all.
Another myth is that only mothers will be awarded custody of very young children, and that courts prefer mothers generally during custody hearings. Child custody laws in Louisiana treat both parents equally. While mothers often have a closer relationship to very young children than fathers, this is not always the case, and fathers are allowed to seek custody of even the youngest children.
Parenting Plans and Mediation
Generally, child custody laws in Louisiana assume that it is significantly better for a child when his or her parents can negotiate an agreement pertaining to custody. Protracted custody battles can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for children and strain their relationships with both parents. Because of this, child custody laws in Louisiana allow for both parents to develop a parenting plan together that resolves any disputes over child custody without court involvement.
If you cannot draft one of these plans because you cannot agree with your spouse on one or more issues pertaining to child custody, you will not automatically have a court hearing. Instead, a more informal process called mediation will try to help you and your spouse work things out on your own. Child custody laws in Louisiana allow judges to order you into mediation if you cannot agree to a parenting plan.
Factors in Awarding Child Custody
Parental wishes, as well as children's wishes if the children are over 12, are taken into account when determining where a child should live. The other factors that Louisiana courts consider relevant include the mental and physical health of the child and parents, the moral fitness of each parent, the ability of each parent to give the child love and affection, and the ability of each parent to provide for a child's physical care.