Louisiana family courts have a wide array of sources of authority to look at when awarding child custody, which does not need to be made in conjunction with a divorce. Serious decisions like these do not occur in a vacuum; they are the result of a careful calculation of many different factors.
As the Louisiana family courts always say, “what is in the best interests of the child” is a factor of the utmost importance when determining where and how to affix custody of that child. In determining the “best interests of the child” a court may look to Article 134 of the Louisiana Civil Code. This article provides a family court with a list of different variables which may have bearing on awarding custody.
Even more specifically, Section (8) of Article 134 considers the world that the child has grown up in: local friends, other families, sports, extracurricular, schooling, and anything else that the child may lose if one parent who lives far away is granted custody.
One easy way to understand section 8 is through the story of Greg. Let us say that Greg grew up in Anytown, Louisiana with both his parents until they got a divorce when he was in the ninth grade. Let us also say that, after the divorce, his mother moved three hours north in the state.
Greg is very happy in Anytown, Louisiana. He is very popular in school, and he has a very pretty girlfriend. He made varsity football his first year of high school, and he is extremely proud of that. Furthermore, Greg loves Anytown, Louisiana so much that he plans to attend college there, and he does not plan to apply to any other colleges but those in Anytown, Louisiana.
A family court will probably consider heavily the fact that Greg is an adolescent who is clearly and demonstrably very happy in Anytown. Assuming, for the sake of this example, that all other things were even (that his parents loved him equally and he loved them equally, and that both parents were able to provide the same stable, productive, and loving standard of life) than Greg would likely remain with his father in Anytown.
As I have noted in some of my other articles, custody battles after a breakup or divorce are rarely black and white. Most times there are other considerations which a court must make in determining the custody arrangements.
That said, in some circumstances, the home, school and community history of the child can be the first or second most importantly thing that a family court will consider, assuming there are no serious health or danger concerns with one of the parents.
Additionally, keep in mind that three different “histories” of the child are considered under section 8. Sometimes, a child may not have a life which fits very cleanly into all three categories. For example, a child who is home schooled really does not have any “school history” to speak of. However, their “home history” would suddenly take on much more weight. Additionally, a child may be unhappy with his current school or community history, which could also change the analysis of a court.
This article is written with the sole intention of providing information. It is not legal advice. Will Beaumont practices divorce law in New Orleans, La.