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How does Louisiana determine child custody?

If you are facing a divorce and have minor children, you and your former spouse must work together to develop a shared custody plan that works for your family. When parents cannot agree on custody, the court will decide based on the child’s best interest. 

Learn more about how child custody works in Louisiana divorce cases. 

Factors in determining best interest  

Some of the judge’s considerations when determining the arrangement in the child’s best interest include: 

  • The existing relationship the child has with each parent 
  • How far the parents live from one another 
  • Whether each parent can provide for a child’s needs, such as medical care, food, education, shelter and clothing 
  • How each parent strives to meet a child’s social, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs 
  • Whether either parent’s morals could negatively impact the child’s welfare 
  • The health status, both physical and mental, of each parent 
  • The child’s ability to adjust to a new home and community 
  • The stability of the child’s current living arrangement 

When the judge determines that joint custody is not in the child’s best interests, one parent will receive primary physical custody while the other receives visitation. The Louisiana court only bars a parent from contacting the child when evidence exists of sexual or physical abuse or neglect. 

Requesting a legal custody ruling 

When you cannot reach an agreement on custody with your co-parent, you can ask the court to decide. You must submit a Petition to Establish Custody to the court in the judicial district where the child currently resides. With this document, include your proposed parenting plan. The court will notify you and the child’s other parent of a hearing date on which you can both present evidence to support your custody plan. The judge will rule based on the best interest standard outlined above. 

Once a legal custody arrangement exists, you can only ask for a change in the case of a significant shift in circumstances. Grandparents may also seek legal custody or visitation in Louisiana. 

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