Understanding the basics of a child custody modification
Parents in St. Tammany Parish who have parted ways as a couple may face child custody concerns. Even if there is an agreement in place, modifications may be necessary. To prevent disputes, it’s important to understand the steps required for making a custody modification.
The simplest way to modify custody terms is by negotiating with the other parent and formulating an amicable agreement. The new plan simply needs to be registered with the court. Judges will generally allow any changes that both parties agree to. If parents need help coming to an agreement, mediation could be beneficial.
If no agreement is possible through discussion, then the case will be decided in court. A child custody modification must be filed or there must be a petition to change the order. There will then be a hearing. After both sides state their cases, the judge will make a decision. The following reasons may be sufficient for a modification:
• The child is in danger.
• The parent will be moving.
• There are changes to the work situation for one or both parents.
• The child’s best interests are no longer served by the arrangement.
• One or both parents are not adhering to the original agreement
With documentation, the parents should inform the judge of problems that might have led to the need to change. Examples include the parenting time vs. scheduled parenting time; activities that could require a modification; proof of new employment or a new residence; statements from professionals including teachers, physicians and other experts; a statement from the child; or proof that the other parent’s fitness is in question. When seeking a child custody modification or facing family law challenges, getting legal advice may be key to a satisfactory result.
Are you likely to be awarded sole custody in Louisiana?
Understandably, one of a parent’s primary concerns when facing divorce is the present and future impact that the dissolution of their marriage will have on their child’s life. While your family may not look the same from here on out, it’s essential to maintain as much consistency as possible in family life. Negotiating a fair, safe and realistic parenting plan will be an important factor in creating a “new normal” for you, your soon-to-be-ex-spouse and your children.
Two types of custody in Louisiana
Co-parenting can be complicated to arrange but it’s relatively simple when you look at the actual components. Here are the two types of custody and what they mean:
- Physical custody. This means actual, physical time spent with the child under sole or joint custody arrangements.
- Legal custody. This means that one or both parents (in the case of joint custody) make major decisions in the lives of the children regarding their upbringing, health, education and future.
What if I want sole custody?
Unfortunately, unless there is strong evidence that your former spouse is a danger to the children, the court prefers joint custody to sole custody arrangements in the state of Louisiana. However, in certain circumstances, like if there is a history of domestic abuse or substance abuse, it is possible to have sole custody awarded. In this scenario, your lawyer would have to prove that your spouse is an unfit parent in court.
Joint custody, even if it involves extremely limited visitation or supervised visitation, will most likely be preferred by a Louisiana judge as it allows both parents to continue a relationship with the children in some capacity. Under a joint custody arrangement, parents must not only share the responsibility of caring for the children in question but also exchange relevant information regarding their health and welfare. The co-parents must discuss important decisions pertinent to legal custody before moving forward.
If you feel your reasons for seeking sole custody are valid, speak to your legal representation about the matter Every family has unique needs. Louisiana courts may have preferences, but ultimately the courts acknowledge that what matters most is the wellbeing of the child.
Will my spouse get half our assets in divorce?
On behalf of Law Office of Virginia Erwin Sirera, LLC | Feb 17, 2020 | Divorce |
Now that you and your spouse have decided to divorce, one of the challenges you will face is dividing your assets. Louisiana is one of just nine community property states. In community property states, marital property is divided equally, 50-50, between both spouses.
What is marital property?
Marital property includes assets acquired during your marriage. So, if you bought a home during your marriage, that is a marital asset. Even if your spouse isn’t on the title of the home, if you bought it while married, it is considered a marital asset. Where asset division becomes complex, though, is if you owned your home before your marriage, but then later your spouse contributed toward paying the mortgage or taxes on it. Then how much your home has grown in value during the marriage is marital property, subject to 50-50 asset division.
Other marital property includes the following:
- Retirement accounts funds accumulated during your marriage
- Other investments made during the marriage
- Vacation property acquired during the marriage
- Business assets acquired during a marriage (including family business assets if they weren’t protected by a prenuptial agreement)
- Furniture acquired during the marriage
- Jewelry, art or collectibles acquired during the marriage
What about debt?
Most couples also have debt they acquired while married. In community property states, spouses will split any debt acquired during a marriage 50-50. Even if your spouse took out a student loan in her name during your marriage, in Louisiana, you and your spouse will divide the debt equally.
Working through property division
Obviously, couples don’t split homes in half or furniture in half when they divorce. They calculate their marital assets and debts and find ways to equal that money between them. If your spouse really wants to keep the marital home so your children won’t face another transition during your divorce, you may decide to give her that asset, keeping more of your retirement earnings.
Your divorce attorney can help you work through dividing your marital property in divorce. It’s always better for couples to reach an agreement on asset division outside of court, giving them more control of what assets they will keep after the divorce is final.
Best options for sharing child custody
Parents going through a divorce in Louisiana already know that child custody can be a painful battle. Though it used to be the case that women would usually retain full custody of the kids, more and more men are exercising their right to share custody. Though a 50-50 split may be seen as the fairest to the parents and the children, some shared child custody schedules are more problematic than others.
For instance, one way that parents may handle joint custody is to alternate weeks. This may involve one parent having the children from Sunday through Saturday while the other has them the following Sunday through Saturday. For many children — particularly younger ones — this can be emotionally difficult. Being away from one parent for a full week can trigger separation anxiety. Additionally, it may be more of a challenge for one parent to retain childcare on an every-other-week basis.
A better option for parents doing a 50-50 child custody schedule would be to alternate every three to four days. Under a 3-4-4-3 schedule, one parent has the kids for three days, then the other has the kids for four days, then the first parent has the children for four days, and so on. The 2-2-3 schedule has a similar idea, but the parents would switch custody more times during the week (which could be more of a challenge for parents who live farther apart).
If switching custody during the week is too much of a challenge, and if parents are willing to agree to an uneven time split, they could agree to trade off for the weekends or for an extended weekend (starting on Friday). Regardless of the eventual outcome, parents can benefit from having a Louisiana family law attorney representing them during child custody negotiations.
Child visitation when parents are unmarried
If you are an unmarried mother of a minor child in St. Tammany Parish, you may wonder whether or not the father of your child has visitation rights. In most cases, allowing the father to have visitation is the right thing to do. However, there are exceptions to this.
Most states have enacted child custody laws that make an unmarried mother the sole legal custodian of their children. This is true regardless of whether or not the father’s name appears on the birth certificate. Some states grant unmarried parents joint custody unless one parent specifically files a petition in court to request sole custody.
Research on child development suggests that children do best when they have a strong relationship with both parents, whether the parents are married, single or divorced. Your communication with the other parent can go a long way toward fostering co-parenting.
Sometimes it is not appropriate to share custody with another parent. If there is a history of abuse or neglect of the child or a high level of conflict between parents, shared custody may not be the healthiest option. There are alternatives to joint custody, including supervised visitation at a neutral location and graduated visitation.
Graduated visitation can work well if a minor child has not seen the other parent for a long period of time so the parent and child can reestablish their relationship.
Establishing a written agreement for child custody and visitation can help reduce a lot of tension when co-parenting. It can also help establish a consistent routine for the child.
If you refuse to offer visitation with your child’s father or if he refuses to pay child support, either parent can file a paternity lawsuit. A paternity action establishes a father’s legal rights. A court order may specifically order visitation and child support after the court rules he is the biological father. Either parent can request a DNA test if the identity of the child’s biological father is in dispute.
An attorney might be able to help you file a paternity action. When you can’t work with the other parent on issues like custody, visitation and support, sometimes this is the best option.
Facing challenges with newborn child custody and visitation
Child custody and visitation can be difficult for St. Tammany Parish parents who have ended their relationship. Multiple factors must be considered as they determine where the child will live, how the visitation schedule will be organized and what to do if there are disagreements. If the child is a newborn, it can be even more complex.
There are fundamental ways to ensure the child’s best interests are served. Parents who have just had their first child will be learning on the fly. Understanding when the child is crying due to hunger, because of tiredness or pain are all key parts of the learning process. Regarding visitation, having specific schedules such as one parent has the child during the workweek and the other for weekends might not be optimal for a newborn. Shorter visits held more often could be better. An example might be 30 minutes up to four times per week for the noncustodial parent. Then it can increase incrementally.
Once the comfort level has improved, overnight visits can be incorporated. This allows the noncustodial parent expanded time to share with the child. It can also give the custodial parent a rest from the stress of caring for a baby. Still, the court will have a say in whether this is viable and overnight visits could be limited until the child reaches a specific age. Providing the child with necessary nutrition is essential. For a breastfeeding mother, this can be problematic. Deciding if formula is sufficient while the child is with the other parent, a willingness to pump breastmilk, and overcoming fears and insecurities about being apart from the child must all be considered.
Parents of newborns will have a lot on their plate. The relationship coming to an end amid demands of nurturing a newborn can be worrisome. Receiving guidance, having adequate protections and getting sufficient visitation to forge a relationship with the child are all vital aspects of a case. From the perspective of the custodial and noncustodial parent, advice from a law firm experienced in child custody and visitation may help.
Joint custody and domiciliary status in Louisiana family law
For St. Tammany Parish parents who have parted ways and are concerned about child custody, there are many factors to consider. In some cases, there is a joint custody order. With joint custody, the parents share the child. However, a frequently misunderstood aspect of joint custody that should be considered is domiciliary status.
The law can be complicated with joint custody when the decree is made and it is implemented. After a decree for joint custody, it will be implemented unless there is good cause not to. There will be certain times at which the parents will have physical custody. This is to ensure there is consistent contact between the child and both parents regardless of domiciliary status. The goal is for the parents to have the child an equal amount of the time. In circumstances where evacuation from the state is necessary, the parent with the child should make sure there is continuing contact between the child and the other parent.
The child will need to live with one of the parents. That will be the domiciliary parent. The child will reside with the domiciliary parent, but the other parent will continue to have periods of time with the child as part of the shared custody arrangement. There will also be frequent contact. Decision-making authority will be granted to the domiciliary parent. For major decisions, the court can conduct a review at the request of the other parent. The child’s best interests are paramount with any decision made by the domiciliary parent.
If parents have a reasonably amicable relationship, a joint custody plan can be effective. Even if they are on somewhat contentious terms and the court orders joint custody, it can be worked out to serve the child’s best interests. With any child custody-related issue, it is still important to have legal advice. A firm that handles family law will understand the unique challenges parents face as they address joint custody issues, communication and domiciliary status. Consulting with a qualified legal professional can be helpful to handle challenges inherent with child custody.
Divorce disputes could involve seeking a exclusive rights order
Owning a home in Louisiana comes with many responsibilities. Things may become more complex when spouses enter into divorce proceedings while co-owning a home. Disagreements over who lives in the home during the divorce could be highly stressful. Seeking a court order for “exclusive rights” might be necessary.
Depictions in entertainment often show one spouse moving out of the home with no disagreements over who leaves. In real life, both spouses have the right to live in the property while divorce proceedings take place. Until the court makes a final decision, rights to the residence exist. Such a right does not extend only to joint property owners; even if only one spouse owns the home, the other may have rights.
To deal with the situation, spouses could request a court order for exclusive use. Once the court issues the order, one spouse may remain in the property while the other must relocate. Such an order might curtail a potentially volatile situation, so an exclusive rights order could support the safety of one or both spouses.
The notion of safety brings up another point. The court order does require cause for its issuance. Issues of domestic violence or mental cruelty could factor into the court’s decision.
Joint ownership means that both parties have a stake in the property. When the spouse ordered to move leaves, he or she does not relinquish decisions on upkeep, repairs, liabilities and other responsibilities. The joint owner does maintain an interest in the property.
In time, divorce proceedings will come to an end with an agreement reached or a decision rendered. A family law attorney may assist a spouse who is seeking a favorable outcome.
When most people in St. Tammany Parish get married, they hope that it’s forever. When things work out, it’s wonderful. When things go south and there’s a divorce on the horizon, the goal is to get as much help while going through the split as possible. People go into marriages with the best of intentions, but there are many reasons that even the marriages that seem the least likely to fail actually fail.
One of the most emotionally devastating reasons for a divorce is when one spouse cheats on the other. The loss of trust can be impossible to overcome for many people, and their only way out is through a divorce. Infidelity can also become an expensive mistake if there was a clause that financially penalized the guilty party in a prenup. Older people are getting divorced now as well since people are living longer and starting brand new lives and careers later in life.
Financial issues are one of the biggest reasons that people get divorced. If one spouse spends too much money and puts the couple’s financial future at risk, that could be a non-negotiable for some spouses. There may be a situation where the couple isn’t able to earn enough money to comfortably survive, causing major stress in the household. Few marriages can survive serious financial issues.
Intimacy is a very important part of a marriage. It’s the emotional and physical link that ties a couple together. When there’s little or no intimacy, spouses can quickly grow apart from each other. Once the distance is there, it could take serious therapy and determination on the part of both sides of the couple to bring it back together. That can be extremely hard to do when the spark that brought them together seems to be gone for good.
No one wants to get a divorce, but sometimes it’s for the best for the emotional, physical, financial, and mental well-being of both partners. People looking into getting a divorce may benefit from working with divorce attorneys who have experience navigating matrimonial law. They may be able to help with a solution that satisfies everyone.
Errors you should avoid making during a divorce
Louisiana couples often make things worse during a divorce through their actions. These self-inflicted wounds can make finalizing a divorce much more difficult than it needs to be. Here are a few common mistakes you should avoid making during the process.
Do not stop talking
It is natural to want to stop talking to the person you are divorcing. After all, something had to have happened to cause the end of your marriage. However, cutting off communication because of anger increases the chance that your case may end up in litigation. If possible, it is best to talk directly without lawyers in the middle because it is cheaper and less formal.
Do not be unrealistic financially
You must understand that your spouse will want his or her portion of the marital estate. The court insists on an equitable distribution between two spouses, so you will likely not get everything that you want. In the end, you may need to make some tough choices, but expecting too much will get you into trouble.
Do not overlook taxes
You may incur tax obligations when certain property is sold. Alternatively, you may inherit this debt when you take over some of the marital estate. There may be capital gains built in that you need to pay. Make sure that you account for this when valuing the property and negotiating or else, you may get hit with a large tax bill in the future.
One way to stay informed and learn of the possible pitfalls that await you is to retain a family law attorney. A lawyer could give you advice ahead of time about what things may cause you trouble. Moreover, he or she may provide you with counsel that reins you in if you are letting your emotions take over amid negotiations. If you are uninformed or unaware, you run a greater risk of causing yourself problems during the divorce.