Child custody laws and expectations vary from state to state, with each one adding its own nuance and technicalities to how its courts arrive at custody arrangement decisions. Broadly speaking, courts across the U.S. are considering the well-being of the child and the environment where they will most likely thrive. But when you begin to zoom in on Louisiana’s custody laws, for example, you’ll discover how “well-being” is determined in a slightly different way than how Texas or Mississippi determines it. You may find it is more complex, or it may leave the Court with more discretionary power.
Like most states, Louisiana’s courts consider the best interest of a child during custody battles. However, this breaks down into 12 key factors. Studying these tenets for Louisiana child custody cases and taking them under consideration will give you an advantage in the courtroom and throughout a Court’s decision process.
Emotional bonding between parent and child
Interviews, evaluations, and hearings can be held to determine what level of connection a child has with each parent. This process can determine how much emotional stability a child has grown toward one parent or the other. If there is a level of emotional codependency toward one parent over the other, a mental health professional may recommend a plan to grow the connection between both parents. A judge can even have this plan factored into a custody ruling.
Parental capacity for material needs
This facet of custody law takes into account both parents’ capabilities to provide environments suitable for spiritual guidance, education, and character development. A court can even consider if the parent is a proper role model to help facilitate the child in this regard. Which parent has consistently shown to be more reliable when it comes to school attendance? Which one has the income and capital to provide quality food and medical care for the child?
Length of the current environment
Courts consider the length of time a child has lived in a stable, adequate environment. As a child’s best interest is the standard for the court to make decisions, removing a child from an established and historically sound environment would likely present challenges and could cause chaos in a child’s life. Courts will weigh this in when making their custody rulings.
Stability and permanence of home
The nature and permanence of a living environment will also be considered by a court. If there are plans in place to move or the risk of a living arrangement being disrupted, a judge will favor the home with the promise of more stability and longevity.
The moral temperament of the parent
How parents conduct themselves during court hearings and throughout the child custody process can tell a judge plenty about the moral fortitude of parents. Are they pathological liars? Are they constantly twisting words or playing with emotions to manipulate others? A court will weigh these traits and how they may negatively impact a child.
Physical health of a parent
Chronic sickness, malnutrition, substance abuse, morbid obesity, smoking, alcoholism — a court will weigh all of this into deciding what is in the best interest of a child. Not only do these health factors put a risk to the upbringing of the child, but they could also destabilize the home environment and affect the child’s access to material needs.
A child’s social grounding
Yes, “it takes a village.” Courts want to know the strength of a child’s social support at a parent’s home. Where does the child have the most support through friendships, extended family, school, church environment, and community?
The child’s preference
While courts will not let a child choose their custody arrangements, a court may take their preference under consideration. Children, especially young children, may have strong emotional connections to a parent who is not fit to provide them with the proper material and emotional support. A judge can decide if a child is mature and aware enough for their custody preference to be substantial.
Willingness of a party to encourage connection with another parent
A judge can take into account how willing a parent is to help facilitate a child’s relationship with the other parent. If one party has consistently demonstrated efforts to sabotage the child’s relationship with the other party, a judge could count that against them. This includes mishandling shared custody arrangements, spreading lies about the other party, and discouraging a child from spending time with the other parent.
Distance between homes
How far parents live from each other can determine a custody arraignment. The closer homes are, the more flexible a schedule can be. Homes that are farther apart may call for a court to institute longer periods of time at one parent’s residence or the other’s.
A party’s history of parenting
“Leopards don’t change their spots,” is an appropriate expression here. The history of how a parent has conducted themselves with a child up until now is a key indicator of how they will act in the future. Judges will take a parent’s track record under advisement when making custody decisions.
While each of these facets of Louisiana’s child custody court decisions is important in its own regard, the law does not consider any single more important than the other. In other words, no single factor is decisive, and a judge will seek to create a holistic custody order taking all of these items into account. If you’re entering a custody battle or in the midst of one already, knowing these 12 factors will put you at an advantage in making the best custody case for yourself.
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