Louisiana Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Louisiana and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Louisiana courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
The State of Louisiana has specific laws pertaining to child custody and visitation that should be reviewed prior to creating a parenting plan. These laws can be found in the Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 9 - Civil Ancillaries, and also in the Louisiana Civil Code.
The Revised Statutes clearly explains the various types of custody, provides definitions for the terminology of the courts and the law, and provides the means for the courts to require the parents to attend parenting seminars and mediation.
The Civil Code contains information about how the court awards custody and the factors the court considers when awarding custody.
Using the Revised Statutes and the Louisiana Civil Code as guides when writing a parenting plan will help to ensure your parenting plan is in compliance with the law and prepare you for what to expect in court.
There are some key components that a thorough and comprehensive parenting plan should have:
- A statement which clearly defines the type of custody, both legal and physical, that the parents shall have.
- A parenting time schedule that dictates when the child will be in the physical custody of each parent. This should include a schedule for holidays and other special days, as well as provisions for vacation time.
- A delegation of the rights and responsibilities of each parent. The State of Louisiana mandates that parents sharing joint custody shall communicate with each other regarding decision making and share information pertaining to the health, education and welfare of the child (RS 9:336). However, provisions may also be included to delegate decision making authority to either or both parents regarding certain subjects, such as the child's religious upbringing and extracurricular activities.
- Any and all provisions the parents would like to include. Anything related to the care and upbringing of the child, from the details of the transportation of the child during the exchange of the child, to a first right of refusal clause that offers the other parent additional time with the child in the event a parent needs a baby-sitter, may be included.
- A method for dispute resolution in case of any future disagreements regarding the parenting plan.
You can never include too much detail in your parenting plan and should pay special attention to the parenting time schedule to make sure it meets the needs of your child.
The parenting plan will serve as a guide to raising your child until he or she reaches adulthood. Once accepted by the court, it will become a binding legal document, so it is important to create your parenting plan with careful thought, foresight, and organization.
The best interest of the child is the main concern of the State of Louisiana when determining child custody.
The State considers all relevant factors, including, but not limited to the following, found in Article 134 of the Louisiana Civil Code:
- The loving, affectionate bonds and emotional ties between the child and each parent.
- The ability and inclination of each parent to raise and nurture the child with love and affection and to provide the child with spiritual guidance and an education.
- The ability and likeliness of each parent to provide the child with basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.
- The length of time the child has been living in a safe and acceptable environment, and whether or not continuing or disrupting that environment would have a positive impact on the child's life.
- The extent of permanence that the child's current or proposed home has.
- The mental and physical health and the moral fitness of each parent.
- The child's acclimation to his or her home, school, and community.
- The wishes of the child as to a custodial preference, if the child is of sufficient age to make such a decision.
- The ability and willingness of each parent to foster a close and continuous loving relationship between the child and the other parent.
- The residential proximity of the parents.
- The parents' previous history of caring for and raising the child.
Article 132 of the Louisiana Civil Code clearly states the methods the court uses to award custody.
If you both are in agreement as to who will have custody of the child and you submit your agreement to the court, the court will approve it as long as the court finds the agreement serves the best interests of your child.
Should the court find that your parenting plan does not serve the best interests of your child, or if you are unable to reach an agreement, the court will award joint custody in a manner deemed appropriate.
However, if clear and convincing evidence is presented that demonstrates that it would be better for the child to have one of you designated as a sole custodian, the court will rule accordingly.
Should you fail to reach an agreement with the other parent, the court may order you to attend mediation in an attempt to resolve your differences (RS 9:332).
If an agreement can be reached in mediation, the mediator will prepare the parenting plan and present it to the court for approval. Otherwise, the judge will decide how you will share the child and delegate your parental responsibilities.
This may or may not be what is best for your child, as the judge does not have the intimate knowledge of the child that you, as parents, do. You should make every effort to create your parenting plan on your own if you want to retain control over what happens with your child.
Depending on the judge, you may or may not have to attend a parenting class. Since the dissolution of a family is especially difficult on children, the court may require you to attend a parenting seminar to educate you about the effects of divorce on children and their emotional needs (RS 9:306).
Divorce is a very emotional and stressful time for children. By setting your differences aside and working together to create a parenting plan that encompasses the needs and best interests of your child, you help make it a little easier on your child.
The top fifteen cities in Louisiana (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Metairie, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Kenner, Bossier City, Monroe, Alexandria, Marrero, New Iberia, Houma, Laplace, Slidell.