How 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.1 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.2
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.3
Note: 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.4
1 LA C.C. Art. 131
2 LA C.C. Art. 134
3 LA C.C. Art. 132
4 LA C.C. Art. 133