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.
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.
What will your child support obligation look like in Louisiana?
As an involved and devoted parent, you may do almost anything for your child. Yet, as you and your spouse prepare to divorce, you will likely fear that your child support obligation could cause you economic pain. Balancing your child’s needs with your financial security will be a difficult act that you will have to pull off for as long as they are a minor. But you can prepare yourself for your obligation by familiarizing yourself with Louisiana’s laws.
Determining your obligation
In Louisiana, both you and your spouse will have an obligation to provide financial support to your child. Your individual contributions, though, will be determined through the state’s income shares model. This model factors the total cost involved in raising your child. And it divides the associated expenses in a manner proportionate to you and your spouse’s incomes. If you, for instance, earned three-quarters of your household’s income, then you would be responsible for 75% of the expenses for raising your child.
Your share of child support may also depend on your custody agreement. If you and your spouse receive joint custody, your obligation could decrease. This adjustment will happen at a judge’s discretion and will reflect any additional expenses you cover during your child’s scheduled time with you.
The length of your obligation
Your child support obligation will likely last until your child turns 18. Yet, they may still be in high school at this point and completely dependent on you and your spouse. In this case, your obligation will terminate once they turn 19 or when they graduate, whichever comes first.
No matter your child support obligation, you will want to make sure it is appropriate for your circumstances. By consulting a family law attorney, you can make sure it reflects both your family’s needs and your financial needs.
Detailed Visitation Transportation Plans Ensure Safe Exchanges
When a marriage ends and one or more children are involved, the divorcing parents often reach joint custody agreements. Joint customer means regular visitation to the other parent, which raises transportation issues. Those issues are even greater when the divorced spouses live a great distance apart and a simple car ride across town will not suffice. Virginia family law allows for detailed visitation transportation plans to enable safe transportation from one parent to another.
Common elements in a visitation transportation plan
A good visitation transportation plan should detail which parents are responsible for which types of transportation and the location where the child exchange occurs. If both parents have safe and reliable transportation but have personal animosity, a neutral location should be chosen. When the breakup is relatively amicable, then more direct transportation to the other parent’s home might be fine.
The plan should detail which parent is primarily responsible for providing transportation, acceptable modes of transportation, and any safety equipment that might be needed, such as a child safety seat. When one parent is going to be late for a planned visitation exchange, the visitation plan should outline how the two parties should communicate and prevent unneeded drama. The visitation plan ultimately is the best way to ensure affected children can enjoy time with both parents in the safest possible manner.
Refusing visitation transportation plans violate court orders
When a Virginia family law court enters a transportation plan, that plan is part of the final court order detailing child custody matters. When one parent refuses to abide the visitation plan, that parent is in contempt of court and violating the agreement. A judge could intervene and alter the order if needed to correct the matter and hold the offending party accountable of its actions.
An experienced family law attorney in Virginia’s St. Tammany Parish might be able to help you to reach a reasonable visitation transportation agreement. If one already is in place and your former spouse will not abide it or your situation has changed and a revision is in order, an attorney can help you get it done.