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The “best interests of the child standard” in Louisiana

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2021 | Family Law

Cooperation between parents at the time of divorce can sometimes be difficult. Therefore, judges in Louisiana can step in to determine child custody by basing it on the “best interests of the child.” Here are the factors that the courts consider when making this decision.

What does “best interests of the child” mean?

When parents argue about custody rights, the matter will often proceed to court. The judge will put the child’s needs above everything else when deciding custody and when making a determination about visitation for the noncustodial parent. The factors that the court considers vary from family to family, but there are pertinent guiding principles including the following:

• The parenting history of each party: The judge will look at how each parent is involved in the child’s life, whether they meet care-taking obligations, the emotional ties between the parent and the child, the amount of time spent with the child, and the decisions that each party has made concerning the child’s life.
• The parental capacity to provide for the child: This includes physical and material needs, spiritual guidance, education, and other aspects of child-rearing.
• Child’s basic needs: Your child may go to school, be involved with activities in a certain community and have friends in that location. In addition, the judge considers the distance between the parent’s homes.
• Parents’ health and moral fitness: If a parent has a substance abuse problem or engages in activities that could affect the growth or behavior of the child, they are less likely to get custody.
• The home where the child will stay: Judges prefer stable, permanent homes for children, especially in their developmental stages.

How a child’s preference plays a part

Louisiana courts will also sometimes consider the preference of the child when determining custody, but they don’t have to follow it. For instance, if the child is 6 years old, their opinion toward custody doesn’t count. However, a 12-year-old’s opinion may have some weight.

Put simply, the child’s best interests include protection from physical and psychological harm and the benefits of having a meaningful relationship with both parents. Greater weight is put on the former.