When a case goes to family court, the matter is personal and emotional. These cases usually involve marriages and children, which can have serious consequences for both parties involved. Though family court may not be an easy process, it is important that you know what types of cases are commonly seen in family court, so you can rest assured that your case is being investigated by the appropriate court. The following are some common types of family court cases:

Divorce

When two parties wish to sever their marriage contract, they can petition the court for a divorce. This process is different than an annulment, in that a divorce ends the marriage while the annulment process cancels the marriage as if it never existed. In a divorce, one party will petition the court for divorce wherein they will have to list the ground for divorce.

The divorce petition may be claim grounds where the other party is “at-fault” or the divorce may claim that there “no-fault”. The Louisiana Civil Code lists the following situations where a divorce may be granted due to the other spouse’s fault: (1) Adultery; (2) The spouse has been convicted of a felony AND has been convicted and sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor; (3) The other spouse physically or sexually abused the petitioning spouse or a child of either spouse, regardless of whether the abuser was prosecuted for the abuse; and (5) After a contradictory hearing or consent decree, a protective order was issued during the marriage against the other spouse to protect the petitioning spouse or a child of either spouse.

A non-fault divorce is based on the time the parties have lived separate and apart. If the parties do not have minor children between them, the time required to live separate and apart is 180 days. If the parties share minor children, the time they must live separate and apart is 365 days. The parties must live separate and apart without reconciliation for the required time periods, meaning they do not resume their life as a married couple.

The petition documents may also ask the party filing if they are requesting child support, spousal support, custody of children, and/or a community property partition. The petition is then served to the other party and litigated in court.

Child Custody and Paternity Determination

The family court can determine paternity of a child or children in a few ways. If the child is born during a marriage, the husband of the mother is the presumed father of the child. If the child is not born during a marriage, the court can accept a written acknowledgment of paternity, by signing the birth certificate if there is no other presumed father, or the court can require a DNA test to be taken to establish paternity. Determination of paternity can be used to file for child custody, visitation, and/or child support. In family court, custody of a child can be determined by a court order. The court usually issues either sole custody or joint custody between the parents. When determining custody, the court takes the best interest of the child as the focal point of the decision. There are 12 best interest factors that the court looks to under Louisiana law: (1) the length of time the child has lived in a stable, adequate environment and the desirability of maintaining that environment; (2) the capacity and disposition of each party to give love, affection, and spiritual guidance and continue the education and rearing of the child; (3) the mental and physical health of each party; (4) the love, affection, and emotional ties between each party and the child; (5) the distance between the residences of each party; (6) the reasonable preference of the child, if deemed by the court to be of sufficient age and maturity (typically no younger than 12 years old); (7) the permanence of a family unity of the custodial home; (8) the willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the child and the other party; (9) the home, school and community history of the child; (10) the capacity and disposition of each party to provide food, clothing, medical care, and material needs for the child; (11) the moral fitness of each party insofar as it affects the child; (12) the responsibility for the care and rearing previously exercised by each party. The. court will consider each factor when determining custody. The law gives each of the twelve factors equal weight for purposes of determining custody, and the way each factor comes into play will vary from case to case. The court will always place the child’s needs first when making a determination of custody.

Guardianship

The family court can establish guardianship of a child or adult, which establishes who is responsible for a person’s medical, financial, and personal decisions. This can be done for a minor child or for an adult who is incapacitated and unable to care for themselves and/or their property. This can be needed for a child when there is no available parent for such child to take care of them. This can also affect any inherited assets by a minor child. Guardianship can be given over a person, over a person’s property, or both the person and their property. This guardianship is valid under the minor child turns 18 years old, usually. This can be extended if required. Guardianship for adults is valid until the said adult can care for themselves in a full, complete, and legal capacity.

Adoptions

Family courts can rule on adoptions, which establish the legal parent or parents of a child. This ruling is permanent if the adoption is successful. In these cases, the biological parent(s) will lose their parental rights. The biological parents can either give consent to the court, or the court can have the biological parents’ rights terminated. Also, based on the age of the child, consent may also be required from the child. If the adoption is finalized by the court, the minor’s name can also be changed if requested.

Protection Orders Against Domestic Violence

Family courts can also issue protection orders against abusers. Visit Protection Orders for more information on how the family court issues these protection orders.

Name Changes

A person can petition the family court for a name change. If the name change of a child is requested, a parent must file the petition, providing reasonings. The second parent must agree with the petition unless the second parent is deceased, has no parental rights, or has no legal rights to the child requesting the name change. If the other parent does not agree, then the petitioner must obtain court approval. The petitioner then must contact Vital Records to finalize the appropriate paperwork.

Emancipation/Underage Marriages

Family court can rule on the emancipation of a minor, which is the legal release of a minor from the control of their parent/parents. For good cause, a court can order a full or limited judicial emancipation of a child who is 16 years or older. A minor is also fully emancipated by a legal marriage, even if the minor gets divorced or their marriage is annulled. If approved by the court, the minor child essentially becomes a legal adult, except in age requirements for alcohol purchases, gambling, and other extenuating circumstances. For purposes of judicial emancipation, the court may determine good cause exists when the parents want to avoid vicarious liability of any post-emancipation damages caused by the minor, the minor requires capacity to act legally as an adult, or the minor has valid reasons why the parents treat the minor poorly. The parents may file for judicial emancipation or the minor may file on their own behalf (even though they are not a legal adult, the court makes an exception in this one circumstance for the minor to act on their own behalf).

These are the types of cases that you may find in family court would. If you have any questions about whether your case is appropriate for family court, contact Latiolais Law Firm. They can assist you with all aspects of your case in family court!