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What to expect when you're divorcing: Child custody basics

Whether you're in the midst of your divorce or just considering broaching the subject, as a parent, your children are probably the number one issue on your mind.

You're likely concerned about shared parenting, visitation, and most importantly, what's best for your kids. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to child custody, that's the issue the courts are most concerned with as well.

But what will the courts feel is best for your children? What are the basics of child custody and what factors help determine parenting arrangements? What can you do to make sure the custody agreement is one which works best for both you and your children? 

Child custody basics

Generally, in Louisiana, family courts base their custody rulings on what they deem to be in the best interests of the child, often taking many of the following considerations into account:

  • The child's preference, if the court deems the child to be old and mature enough to decide
  • The love and affection between the child and parents
  • Each parent's ability to provide food and shelter for the child
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Each parent's ability to care for, raise, and educate the child
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable and loving environment
  • The moral fitness of each parent
  • The distance between homes

If you're hoping to figure out a custody arrangement that the courts will accept, it makes good sense to familiarize yourself with these and any new custody laws as well, as the courts tend to order whatever arrangement the parents work out unless it's deemed not to be in the child's best interests. Otherwise, the court may disregard your wishes and order a child custody arrangement or parenting visitation schedule that you feel is less than ideal.


What is visitation and how does it differ from custody?

When the courts decide not to grant one parent joint or even partial custody of a child, that parent is usually still entitled to see the child for visits unless there are extenuating circumstances such as abuse. Interestingly, visitation rights do not simply apply to biological parents but may extend to other relatives as well.

Just like with child custody agreements, family court will consider the child's best interests along with certain other factors when determining visitation, such as:

  • The child's preference, if the court deems the child to be old and mature enough to decide
  • The length and quality of any existing relationship between the relative and child
  • Whether the child needs guidance that the relative is in a position to provide

Can I modify an existing child custody arrangement?

Generally speaking, it can be very difficult and time consuming to alter child custody agreements once they are in place, which is why it's often advisable to consult an experienced Louisiana family law attorney to help you work out the most ideal arrangement possible during the divorce process.

However, there are certain changes in circumstances in which courts will consider a modification request, including:

  • If you or your ex remarries
  • If you or your ex decides you would like to have a larger role in your child's life
  • If you or your ex is planning to relocate

Whether you're merely considering separation or you are already divorced but wishing you could spend more time with your children now that recent changes have occurred in your life, Louisiana child custody laws can feel confusing, overwhelming and even insurmountable. Luckily, there are experienced family law attorneys in the Baton Rouge area whose seasoned counsel can prove invaluable in helping you fight to secure a happier tomorrow for you and your family.

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