The stress of divorce is rarely a smooth walk in the park. Even when both parties agree on every aspect of the separation, it is an emotional process. The uncertainty of what will happen with your children both physically and emotionally makes it even harder. Knowing the laws and what your rights are not only provides peace of mind but will give you realistic goals and help you prepare for the courtroom. While we recommend finding a child custody lawyer who knows both the laws of your state and the court system inside and out to help guide you through the process, it is important to also do your own research. The goal of this article is to provide some basic information to serve as a starting point to your research as well as address some more common questions. This information is not to be used as legal advice; If you have questions or would like additional details about any one of these elements, do not hesitate to contact us for your consultation today!  

How Does Child Custody Work in Louisiana?

The Louisiana court system keeps the focus on the best interest of the child or children. The courts encourage parents to take their first step in a long journey of working together on behalf of their children by coming up with their own custody agreement. If the agreement is reasonable and in the best interest of the child, a proposed custody agreement will typically be approved. Your proposal should include elements such as: 

-Residency plans for the children by naming a domiciliary parent
-Birthday, Holiday & Special Occasion plans
-Access & Communication plans to the children

If modifications are desired to the custody plan once it has gone through the court system, you would need to file a petition stating what change in circumstances have taken place to justify the modification. 

If both parties are unable to agree upon a custody agreement themselves, the court will step in and create an arrangement based on several factors, including but not limited to: 

-Emotional ties between each party and the child
-Mental & Physical health of both parents
-Parents distance from schools, community history for each child, and relatives
-Each parties ability to provide the basic needs of the children
-A child’s preference (If old enough to express such a decision)
-Who has been the primary caretaker
-Willingness of each parent to nurture an ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent

There are many types of custody agreements including legal custody, physical custody, shared custody, joint custody, split custody with more than one child, and sole custody. For assistance choosing the right custody plan for you and beginning the drafting process, contact Latiolais Law.

What Makes a Strong Child Custody Case?

Every family’s situation is different so what builds a strong case is determined on a case by case basis. A strong custody case is also dependent upon your goals for the outcome of the case. If you are seeking sole custody, or believe the other party will attempt to do so, or even if discussions with the other party lead you to believe they will not request a reasonable custody plan, keep documentation of anything that could be significant such as text messages, questionable social postings, failure to pay child support, any neglectful behavior including keeping children from you, any abuse towards you or others, etc. The best interest of the child is what will stand, so proving that you provide a safe, stable, and loving environment will make it very hard for the other party to receive sole custody. Remember that the courts will look at the mental and physical health of both the children and each parent, work schedules, historical involvement, stability, etc. when considering a reasonable custody plan. 

How is Child Support Calculated in Louisiana?

In the state of Louisiana, the child support formula is based on the gross income of the parties and the Child Support Guidelines. The formula may change if the parents have equal custody of the children. While judges can deviate from the formula on a case by case basis, children are legally entitled to financial support from both parents. The guidelines for amount are depending upon things like the number of children, income of both parents, child-care cost, health insurance, and miscellaneous expenses. 

To get a rough idea of what you can expect to pay or receive for child support, start by figuring out the average monthly gross income of both parties and dividing each figure by the combined total gross income from both parties. This will give you each party’s percentage share of total income. Next you will need to take a look at the Louisiana Legislature’s child support table and find the total average gross income amount you fall under, and scroll over for the number of children you have to find the basic child support obligation amount. From this amount, things such as childcare costs, health care premiums, certain medical expenses, etc. would be considered. If the non-custodial parent makes any direct payments for any of these things, that amount would be deducted from the total amount owed on their end. Once you have your base line number, you multiply it by your percentage share of total income, and that will give you a rough amount of what to expect for child support payments each month. Keep in mind that certain factors have to be agreed upon by courts and/or both parties such as medical expenses and other factors may complicate the gross income amount such as self-employment. While this is a great way to get a ballpark figure, always consult with a family lawyer to confirm your facts and figures.

When To Hire A Family Law Attorney

When to hire a family law attorney for your divorce and/or custody case is dependent upon your specific situation. Typically, the sooner you can hire a family law attorney, the better off you will be. Doing your own research is an excellent first step, and will help you help your attorney, but a family law attorney will help you navigate through things you may not be considering such as items to be documented to help support your case, timelines, and appropriate actions on your part. If you have any questions or would like to explore the options for your situation, do not hesitate to contact Emily Latiolais with Latiolais Law Firm today.