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What judges consider in Louisiana child custody cases

Baton Rouge parents often have expectations during separation or divorce that may differ from a Louisiana family judge's views. It is common for parents to seek a self-serving child custody or visitation arrangement. Courts take a different viewpoint based upon the best interests of the child.

Parents who cooperate can create a customized parenting plan -- a judge will approve it as long as the agreement contains all the salient points. It's helpful for parents who aren't certain what a parenting plan should contain to rely on an attorney's assistance. You can also avoid a court-ordered child custody plan by working with your ex through a mediator, a neutral party who facilitates the process.

Let's imagine compromise with a former spouse or partner is impossible, even with the help of a lawyer or mediator, and the case ends up before a judge. What drives a judge's custody decision? Your opinion counts and sometimes, so does your child's preferences, but there are several other points a court considers.

A judge will want to know a lot about the child's relationship with each parent. The parents' attitudes toward one another are also important, since a child is influenced by them. A judge does not want the adults' personal conflicts to interfere with the relationship a child has with each parent.

The health of all parties is reviewed. Parents must exhibit mental, physical and moral parenting capabilities. Any proposed change in a child's living arrangements is weighed against the stability of the child's current environment – at home, in school, in extracurricular activities and among relatives.

What parents want and what children need are factors included in a custody agreement, whether the arrangement is designed by parents or court ordered following an unresolvable dispute. Judges don't dismiss parents' desires about custody. Nothing against parents' wishes, but courts simply don't give that as much priority as a child's stability and well-being.

Source: WomensLaw.Org, "State Custody Information" Sep. 09, 2014

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