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Louisiana's custody laws favor parental cooperation

Courts in different states share some similarities on determining custody issues. Louisiana courts, however, have different preferences on awarding child custody.

Usually, courts in this state prefer granting joint custody to both co-parents and believe this furthers the best interests of the child. Joint custody can apply to physical and legal custody.

A parent with physical custody provides the primary residence for the child and is responsible for their daily care. A co-parent with legal custody assumes responsibility for major decisions such as education, religion and health care. Co-parents divide the legal and physical attributes with joint custody.

Louisiana's custody laws prefer that parents develop their own joint custody agreements. State law requires that the plan include an agreement concerning the child's residence, both parents' access and communication with the child and amount of child support.

These agreements must be submitted to a court for final approval. But, courts will usually approve any reasonable agreement that is in the child's best interest.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will create its own plan. Judges are guided by the quality of the relationship each parent has with their child, the parent's ability to provide financial and emotional support, which co-parent was the primary caregiver for most of the child's life, the parties' mental and physical health and each parent's willingness to encourage a strong and lasting relationship between the child and the other co-parent.

However, courts may award sole custody when appropriate. In most case, the non-custodial co-parent will receive visitation rights if visitation is in the child's best interest.

Other family members or individuals may also obtain visitation rights if a judge determines that these rights will be in the child's best interest. They will consider the child's preferences based upon their age and maturity, the length and quality of the relationship between the person seeking visitation rights and the child and how that person can provide for the child in a manner that the parents cannot perform.

An attorney can give advice on negotiating custody agreements. They can help protect rights during negotiations and in proceedings before a family court judge.

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