Divorce is difficult for everyone, emotionally and financially. Since most divorces involve children, the stakes are especially high on every small issue. But in the end, custody has to be decided once and for all.
The way child custody is decided in Louisiana comes down to one simple rule- the best interests of the children. Everything else is secondary. But there are many things you should know if you are considering a divorce regarding how the best interests are determined.
Types of custody
There are two main types of custody in Louisiana that need to be considered. These are:
- Legal custody, which is the right to make long-term decisions about the children
- Physical custody, or the day to day routine and care for the children
Whenever possible, the courts are going to want both of these to be shared. It is considered to be in the best interest of the children to know both of their parents. This means that at least physical custody has to be shared between both divorcing co-parents. The term “visitation rights” is often used to describe the time with the other parent.
Only in rare circumstances such as abuse or illegal activity is it going to be judged in the best interests of the children to be completely separated from one of their parents.
How is this decided?
In general, an even split of the children’s time is the starting point for the courts. That is rarely practical, as there is a daily routine involving school and other activities that will probably fall on one parent. But the goal is to split the week up as much as possible between two parents.
It may come as a surprise, but in Louisiana the most common way this is decided is by the divorcing parents themselves. Mediation is strongly encouraged in divorce cases, and sometimes even forced.
Mediation is a process by which a professional listens to both parents and does their best to get them to agree on custody issues. Since the standard is always the best interests of the children, there is always a place to start.
Divorce is a difficult time for everyone, and it is certainly no time to sit down and work through the process on your own without help. A lawyer with experience in family court can help you work through your goals for custody and how best to present them to the mediator and, if necessary, the court.
Custody matters are always difficult emotionally. It takes personal attention and consideration to give you the support that you need to get through this. But you can. Remember the best interests of your children and matters such as custody will be worked out to your benefit.