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Child Custody and Child Support

Child Custody and Child Support

The dissolution of any marriage or partnership brings about a host of issues. When children are involved, complex issues with child custody and child support come to the forefront.

To be frank, neither the judges of the court nor the hearing officers who make rulings on your case will have the slightest inclination to care about what you want as a parent. When you step into the universe of child custody, only one question exists – what is best for the children? The court’s only goal in a custody dispute is to protect the children and maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives. When that can be accomplished by fostering a healthy relationship with both parents, doing so is always preferable. Our goal as child custody attorneys and advocates is to paint the picture to the court that what you want is what’s best for the children, and that their best interest is precisely why you want what you want. If our clients have problems in their personal history that may jeopardize their image to the court, we always work to rehabilitate that image. In our initial consult, we will discuss big picture questions, including: what type of custody schedule you would want in a perfect world if you could choose every detail; what type of schedule is likely the most feasible; and what your biggest concerns are in regards to your children. The more we understand about your goals and circumstances, the better we can represent you. Our client reviews are evidence that we always do our best to stay hands on, communicate easily and effectively, and work with our clients as a team until their situation is resolved.

To ensure that a fair arrangement is reached, you should not sign off on any long-term agreements without at least consulting with a knowledgeable family law lawyer. Our family law attorneys routinely handle child custody cases and can help to determine what constitutes a fair custody arrangement for you and your children.

In our first consult, we will review your situation in detail, discuss options to get a feel for what your goals are, and explain how our specific hearing officers and judges have interpreted our state laws, and how their past rulings may impact your future. We often prioritize our goals and formulate long term plans in our first meeting with clients, which serve as the foundation for our negotiations and trial tactics down the line. Our consult is not just a meet and greet, it is the first day on the job.

CUSTODY; THE BASICS

Child custody encompasses both the physical and legal custody of the child. Physical custody is where the child resides while legal custody entails the decision making process for the parents including the “last word” on major education decisions, religious practices, medical treatments and activity involvement. Both of these aspects must be considered during child custody proceedings.
In Louisiana, the court must choose a “domiciliary” parent. Put simply, this is the parent who has the last word on major medical and educations decisions. The courts used to split the baby and award “co-domiciliary” status to both parents, but the Louisiana Supreme Court overruled that concept and the courts are now forced to choose. However, while Domiciliary status gets a lot of spotlight and clients are often very concerned about which parent will be chosen, in practicality the designation is not always one that will effect anyone’s day to day lives. We encourage the parties to discuss and agree on things like schools and doctors in advance, and this take much of the tension off of the situation. Of course the circumstances don’t always foster the right attitude for a meeting of the minds on these issues, but when possible it is always most cost effective to explore this option. If that’s not an option for you, we are always willing and prepared to resolve our problems in court.

Our child custody attorneys and staff will work with you to achieve the best possible outcome while preserving your parental rights and protecting your children’s best interests.

How does the court decide what is in my children’s best interest?

In Louisiana, our Civil Code is our legal guide and it provides the roadmap in terms of focal points and important topics to highlight to the court. Civil Code article 134 provides a host of factors that the court will consider when making a conclusion on child custody, including:

(1) The love, affection, and other emotional ties between each party and the child.
(2) The capacity and disposition of each party to give the child love, affection, and spiritual guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child.
(3) The capacity and disposition of each party to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs.
(4) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, adequate environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity of that environment.
(5) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
(6) The moral fitness of each party, insofar as it affects the welfare of the child.
(7) The mental and physical health of each party.
(8) The home, school, and community history of the child.
(9) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
(10) The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other party.
(11) The distance between the respective residences of the parties.
(12) The responsibility for the care and rearing of the child previously exercised by each party.

Courts will emphasize some factors more than others, and no single factor alone should control the outcome. In our first meeting, we will take time to discuss relevant circumstances and how they relate to these factors, and to review how our court tends to rule in situations like yours. That said, each case is unique, and it is never possible to guarantee a particular outcome.

CUSTODY MODIFICATION

In Louisiana, a custody order can be modified if the court determines that material circumstances have changed such that a new custody schedule is best for the child.

If your prior order was by consent, or agreement, the process of getting back into court can be relatively simple, as the standard for changing custody is low. On the other hand, if your custody order was issued after a judge considered evidence, or after a trial occurred, it will be much more difficult to modify the custody schedule, but it can still be done under the right circumstances. This fact is often the reason parties decide to put their issues aside and agree on an initial custody schedule. As family law lawyers, it is our job to make sure you understand all of the long-term implications of these decisions before you sign off.

CHILD SUPPORT

Courts generally adhere to an objective process when determining the proper child support amount. This means that, for the most part, the amount of child support owed is pre-determined based on statutory guidelines. Whether you are a single parent seeking child support or a non-custodial parent with questions about your current support order, our family law attorneys can help to ensure that your children receive the necessary financial support based on the appropriate factors.

Child support calculation is generally based upon a number of financial factors pertaining to both parties. Our knowledgeable legal team will help you compile your financial information and ascertain the other parent’s current situation in order to make certain your support obligation is fair in light of both party’s monthly income and circumstances. Factors considered in the formulation of child support include:
Number of children and their custody schedule
monthly gross income of the parties
Pre-existing child support obligations
Out of pocket medical and/or daycare expenses by either parent

MODIFYING CHILD SUPPORT

If you already have a child support order in place, you may be in need of a modification of the monthly obligation or amount. In general, a court may modify a child support order if it finds the financial status of either party has materially changed and the current support obligation is no longer fair. In Louisiana, a change in income that would result in a change in support of equal to or more than 25% is considered material. For instance, if the parent paying support suddenly becomes disabled and is no longer able to work, the court will likely consider reducing his support obligation to meet his current income level. Conversely, if either parent experiences a sudden increase in monthly income, the court may decide to adjust the monthly support amount accordingly. If you require a modification to your child support order, our team will help your compile the requisite financial documentation and file to request a modification.

Always remember that voluntarily lowering your income in any way will not affect support. This is known as “voluntary underemployment.”

Whether you are the obligor or obligee, our family law firm will work with you to obtain a child support amount that reflects the Louisiana guidelines and best interests of your children. If you are having difficulty meeting your monthly support obligation or believe your child’s parent is able to pay more than the amount in the current order, our attorneys will work diligently to achieve a modification of support on your behalf. To speak with one of family law lawyers about your child support matter, Contact us today! 337-480-0101.

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