Know the Laws: Louisiana
UPDATED February 13, 2015
This page includes information about custody that is specific to this state. There is also a page for general information that you may find helpful.
back to topHow will a judge make a decision about custody?
Custody is determined according to what the judge considers to be in the child’s best interest.* The judge shall consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to the:
- Love, affection, and other emotional ties between each parent and the child.
- Ability of each parent to support the emotional, educational and material (such as food, clothing, medical care, etc.) needs of the child.
- Length of time the child has lived in a stable environment, and the desirability of staying within that environment.
- Stability of the existing or proposed custodial home(s).
- Moral fitness of each parent and how it affects the child’s well-being.
- Mental and physical health of each parent.
- Home, school, and community history of the child.
- Reasonable preference of the child (if the court thinks the child is old enough to give a preference).
- Willingness of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Distance between the homes of the parents.
- Previous role and responsibility of each parent regarding caring for and raising the child.**
If the parents agree who is to have custody, the court will award custody according to their agreement unless it is not in the child’s best interest. If the parents do not agree or if their agreement is not in the child’s best interest, the court shall award custody to the parents jointly unless there is strong evidence that custody to only one parent is better for the child.***
: If it is proven that joint custody or sole custody to either parent would result in substantial harm to the child, the court will give custody to another person who is able to provide a stable living environment.****
* LA C.C. Art. 131
** LA C.C. Art. 134
*** LA C.C. Art. 132
**** LA C.C. Art. 133
back to topCan a parent who committed violence get custody or visitation?
Possibly, yes. In Louisiana, there is a general belief that any parent who has a history of family violence will not be awarded sole or joint custody. A “history” of family violence can be multiple incidents or can be a single incident of violence that caused serious physical injury. Custody would only be awarded to the abusive parent if:
- The parent has successfully completed a treatment program;
- The parent is not abusing drugs or alcohol; and
- The parent’s participation is required for the child’s best interest because of the other parent's absence, mental illness, substance abuse, or other circumstances that affect the best interest of the child. (Note: The fact that the abused parent suffers from the effects of the abuse shall not be grounds for denying that parent custody).
If the judge finds that both
parents have a history of family violence, custody will be given to the parent who is less likely to continue to commit family violence as long as s/he completes a treatment program ordered by the judge. If necessary to ensure the child’s safety, custody may instead be given to someone else (not the parent) as long as that the person would not allow the child to see the violent parent except as ordered by the court.
If the judge finds a history of family violence, supervised visitation
will be allowed only if the parent completes a treatment program. After s/he completes treatment, s/he can get unsupervised visitation only if there is significant evidence that visitation is in the child's best interest and that the violent parent:
- completed a treatment program;
- is not abusing alcohol and drugs; and
- is not a danger to the child.*
: If a judge finds evidence that the parent sexually abused the child, that parent cannot get unsupervised visitation or contact with the child. The only way to get supervised visitation is for the abusive parent to prove at a hearing that s/he successfully completed a treatment program designed for sexual abusers, and that supervised visitation is in the child's best interest.*
Furthermore, if the child was conceived through felony rape
, the parent who committed the felony rape cannot get any visitation rights or contact with the child. Also, if an abuser kills the other parent of the child
, the abuser's relatives cannot get visitation rights or contact with the child.**
It is recommended that you seek legal advice from a lawyer to assist you in a custody case involving domestic violence issues. For information on how to find a lawyer see our LA Finding a Lawyer
* LA R.S. 9:364
** LSA-C.C. Art. 137
back to topShould I start a court case to ask for supervised visitation?
If you are not comfortable with the abuser being alone with your child, you might be thinking about asking the judge to order that visits with your child be supervised. If you are already in court because the abuser filed for visitation or custody, you may not have much to lose by asking that the visits be supervised if you can present a valid reason for your request (although this may depend on your situation).
However, if there is no current court case, please get legal advice BEFORE you start a court case to ask for supervised visits. We strongly recommend that you talk to an attorney who specializes in custody matters to find out what you would have to prove to get the visits supervised and how long supervised visits would last, based on the facts of your case.
In the majority of cases, supervised visits are only a temporary measure. Although the exact visitation order will vary by state, county, or judge, the judge might order a professional to observe the other parent on a certain amount of visits or the visits might be supervised by a relative for a certain amount of time -- and if there are no obvious problems, the visits may likely become unsupervised. Oftentimes, at the end of a case, the other parent ends up with more frequent and/ or longer visits than s/he had before you went into court or even some form of custody.
In some cases, to protect your child from immediate danger by the abuser, starting a case to ask for custody and supervised visits is appropriate. To find out what may be best in your situation, please go to LA Finding a Lawyer to seek out legal advice.
back to topWhere can I find out more information about custody in Louisiana?
The following links may be helpful:
- For information about grandparent's custody and visitation rights, you can read the resource guide published by the Governor's office of Elderly Affairs.
- The Louisiana State Bar Association has information about custody in their divorce brochure, including information about the factors a judge will consider when determining what custody arrangement is in the child's best interests.
- LouisianaLawHelp.org has additional links with Louisiana-specific custody information.
Please note that WomensLaw.org has no relationship with these organizations and does not endorse their services. We provide these links for your information only.
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