Steve Roberts Attorney at Law

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Child Custody

Factors the Court Considers
Types of Custody Arrangements

Factors the Court Considers

This is far and away the most difficult area of family law, as it does not take much of an imagination to come to the conclusion that people will fight for their children over and above everything else in this world, and rightly so.

That said, the Court considers various factors that are enumerated in the Civil Code to decide which parent is best suited to be the domiciliary parent of the child. Those factors are things one might expect such as each party's history in taking care of the child, the type of influence each party would be on the child, and each party's ability to provide the child with a good education. Also, the Court reviews the moral fitness and mental health of the parties, along with each party's ability to provide the child with material needs and also whether either parent is more willing to let the other continue to have access to the child. These are but a few of the factors, and it is beyond the scope of this discussion to go into all the details. It requires a consultation with the client to fully inform a client about all of the issues involved in their particular case.

Child custody litigation is much more complicated than most persons would think at first blush. Trials require a very fact intensive investigation that not only demands a full understanding of each parent's ability to care for the child, but also requires the needs of the child be considered more so than anything else. One of the hardest things for parents to understand is that the Court is not going to take into account what either parent "wants," or whether or not any decision appears to be fair to the parents. The best interest of the child is the issue, not whether either parent is fairly treated.

As such, although more complicated than addressed here with many sub issues involved, child custody cases can be boiled down to what is in the best interest of the child. Unfortunately, many child custody cases turn into battles of will between the parents who are actually (and often unknowingly) enlisting the children into a war between the parents, and the best interests of the children suffer terribly.

Types of Custody Arrangements

Custody arrangements in Louisiana have been evolving, just like custody arrangements nationwide. As most people know, in the "old days" it was thought that children need to be with their mother. It was pretty much a standard arrangement for the mother to have custody of the children and the father receive alternating weekend visitation, etc.

However, times have changed. Both State and Federal laws indicate that children need the support of both of their parents and need to be involved with both parents. To that end, joint custody of the children is recommended and mandated by law such that far and away most custody arrangements are those of the joint custody type with as much of a fifty-fifty time sharing of the children as possible.

Domiciliary Custody
Once a joint custody has been declared, then usually one parent is named the "domiciliary" parent and that is where the child actually lives. That parent enjoys some advantages such as a rebuttable presumption that they should be entitled to income tax dependency deductions, and that they should be the "tie breaker" on making decisions about the child such as medical decisions and where the child attends school, etc. However, the other parent who is the non-domiciliary parent is still a joint custodian and has complete and unfettered access to medical records, school records, and certainly must be recognized and included by the domiciliary parent in decision-making.

Sole Custody in Circumstances that Endanger the Child
Other types of custody arrangements can be much more limited if there are circumstances involved such that the child would be placed in danger. Of course, there is an available option of sole custody where one parent is completely in control of the child and the other parent can no longer participate whatsoever in any decision making, and won't have access to any records or interfere in the child's school, or participate in any other decisions including medical decisions. Usually, these cases are limited to circumstances in which one of the parents is severely disabled mentally, or has some sort of criminal history, chemical dependency history, child abuse or sexual molestation history, or some other serious impediment that would place the child in danger if that parent were allowed to participate as a joint custodian.

Supervised Visitation While Undergoing Rehabilitation
There are cases that are not as bad as the Sole Custody cases, but require that the parent who is questionable must obtain some sort of treatment. In many of these joint custody cases, the party may receive supervised visitation of the children until he or she has been rehabilitated to the Court's satisfaction such that supervised visitation is no longer necessary.

Discretion of the Judge
Custody issues, and different types of visitation and custody plans, have evolved rapidly over the last few years. Also, the outcome in custody litigation can vary depending on which judge determines your case. Of course, there is no way to pick a judge and when you file suit it is a random process. Steve Roberts has extensive experience with all of the Family Law Courts such that feedback will be available to the client about what the different perspectives are of the various Family Court Judges.

Custody and visitation cases are as varied as snowflakes, and each party's particular facts and circumstances must be carefully reviewed by an attorney to provide advice as to what is possible and what should be pursued as an arrangement that will be in the best interest of the children.

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