Eric S. Neumann, APLC
More Than 25 Years Of Family Law Experience
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Understanding the "best interests of the child"

If a divorcing couple in Louisiana has minor children, the custody and financial support of the child can become a divisive issue. If the parents cannot agree on issues of custody and support for their child, the court will be required to intervene. In making decisions on child custody and support, the court must consider the "best interests of the child." The term itself is very vague, but the state legislature has provided a number of factors that the court can consider.

The statute first directs the court to consider "all relevant factors" in determining the best interests of the child. The statute then provides a list of 12 factors that the court may, but is not required to, consider. The list begins with "the love, affection and other emotional ties between each party and the child." The second factor is the "capacity and disposition of each party to provide the child with love, affection and spiritual guidance." The court may also consider the ability of each party to provide food, clothing, medical care and other medical needs for the child.

A number of factors bear upon the home life that the child experienced before the divorce. Permanence of the family unit is important; put another way, have the parents or either parent provided a permanent and stable home environment, or has the child spent time in custodial homes? The moral, physical and mental fitness of each parent are also critical factors. If the child is old enough to express a considered opinion, the court may take into account the child's preferences about custody arrangements.

Certain factors can be absolutely disqualifying. Evidence of domestic abuse may prevent the parent who committed the abuse from having either permanent or temporary custody.

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