Courts in Louisiana are to award child custody in accordance with the best interest of the child. While there are defined factors to guide courts, most Family Attorneys simply narrate the reasons why the proposed custody arrangement will be a benefit or will be a detriment to the child.
In Louisiana, the domiciliary parent is the parent with whom the child shall primarily reside. The domiciliary parent shall have authority to make all decisions affecting the child unless an implementation order provides otherwise, but these decisions can be subject to court review, if the non-domiciliary parent objects. Either parent may become the domiciliary parent, when the court orders that there is to be joint custody. The court may not, however, order that both parent be co-domiciliaries, but this arrangement is possible if the parents come to such an agreement. The criteria that the court uses to determine which parent becomes the domiciliary is simply the best interests of the child. This means that presenting the facts of why you should make the primary decisions in the child life is very important.
Changing Custody Arrangements Later On
Changing custody largely depends on how the original custody arrangement established. It could either have been established by agreement between the two spouses or it could have been established as the result of the court exercising its own judgment.* (Another option is for custody to be established partially by consent and partially by the court.)
If custody was established by consent, you must be able to show that there has been a material change in circumstances since the original judgment was entered and that the proposed custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
If custody was established by through a judge exercising judgment, then you will have to show either that the present custody is so deleterious to the child as to justify a modification of the custody decree, or that the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is substantially outweighed by its advantages to the child. You will also have to show that the proposed custody arrangement is in the child’s best interests.
*If you are in Jefferson Parish, or a parish in Louisiana that uses hearing officers to determine custody, and if the hearing officer’s ruling was not challenged timely, courts have considered this to be a judgment by consent.