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Louisiana Child Custody
Child Custody in Louisiana

Louisiana Civil Code Articles 132 and 134 provides "[t]he court shall award custody to the parents jointly unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that custody to one parent would serve the best interest of the child. If the parents agree on custody the court will generally honor their agreement unless it is not in the best interest of the child."

In a divorce, Louisiana protects the best interests of the child. Louisiana family courts have jurisdiction over issues in child custody, support, and visitation rights. Except when it is not in the best interests of the child, Louisiana courts award custody based on the parents' wishes. Divorcing parents create a parenting plan the courts review. The court intervenes when the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan in the best interests of the child.

Custody can be either joint custody or single parent custody.

Louisiana courts encourage divorcing parents to amicably cooperate in an agreement on how they should raise their child. Cooperation reflects the parents' willingness to foster a continuing child-parent relationship and parental support after divorce. The court intervenes when a dispute arises, and it decides which parent is best qualified and whether or not joint custody is plausible. The court considers:

  • the child's wishes or preferences, provided, he or she is mature enough to make such claims, which is generally at the age of 12;
  • the family dynamics such as love and affection between the child and the other parties seeking custody;
  • the mental and physical health of the parties involved in the proceedings.
  • the amount of time the child has lived in a stable and supportive environment as well as the willingness of the parents in maintaining continuity of that desirable environment;
  • the parent's moral character;
  • any history of domestic violence or child abuse;
  • the child's adjustment to home, school, and community; and
  • the willingness and ability of each party involved to foster and encourage a desirable and continuing relationship between the child and the other party.

In summary, Louisiana child custody laws have set parameters for the court to resolve issues in custody. Either sole custody or joint custody can be reached unless a third party is suitable to be the child's custodian.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Louisiana courts have the right to require divorcing parents with minor children to complete a parenting class before granting a divorce. It is the Judge's discretion, so he or she may require you to take a parenting class. Whether or not you are required to do so, we highly recommend taking the Children In Between parenting class for the benefit of your child(ren).

Joint Custody Preference

Louisiana law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. Louisiana prefers joint custody with parents sharing responsibility for raising the child. Joint custody ensures that the child will have a continuing, meaningful relationship with both parents. When joint custody is awarded, one parent is the primary custodian and the other is entitled to visitation, including several weeks during the summer, at least half of the holidays, and on alternating weekends.

Third Party Custody

In some cases, a third party, or someone other than a child's biological parents, tries to gain custody of a child. In some instances, the court awards custody to a third party. This happens when neither parent is capable of taking care of the child.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child.

An abusive parent does not receive joint custody or sole custody. If both parents are abusive, the parent who has completed a treatment program and is the least likely to commit abuse again may be awarded custody. If possible, Louisiana prefers a parent to a third party custodian. The parent who was abusive in the past can be awarded custody after completion of a court-ordered treatment program.


The Louisiana courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy. Under child custody laws, the non-custodial parent receives visitation rights unless the child's welfare is at risk with the visiting parent. Visitation by a non-parental relative, such as the child's grandparents, may be granted by the court provided these individuals have a quality and constructive relationship with the child.

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