What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard in Louisiana?
To determine what is in the best interests of the child in an action to establish or modify custody, a set of factors have been established to guide the courts in custody disputes. The weight afforded to each factor is in the discretion of the court, but the judge presiding over any custody dispute should take all the factors into consideration. These factors include:
- Potential for abuse – This is the primary consideration, and abuse has been defined broadly by the courts.
- Abusive history of a party – This could include any history of substance abuse, violence, or criminal history of a party.
- Prior relationships – The court will consider the length of time the child has lived in a stable and adequate environment and the desirability of continuing to live in that environment.
- Ability to nurture – The court will consider the capacity and disposition of each parent to love, guide, and discipline the child as well as each parent's ability to contribute to the child's education.
- Health – The court will consider each parent's mental and physical health.
- Emotional ties – The court will consider the child's history with each parent as it relates to love, affection, and emotional ties.
- Location – The court will consider the distance between the parents' residences.
- Preference of the child – The court may consider the preference of the child if the child is of a suitable age to express such a preference. What constitutes a suitable age is up to each judge. However, even if a child is old enough to communicate his or her preference, some judges prefer to not involve children in the proceedings unless absolutely necessary.
- Stability – The court will consider each parent's ability to provide a stable home and living environment for the child.
- Cooperation with the other party – Cooperation between parents is important to the upbringing of a child. The court will consider each parent's willingness to foster the child's relationship with the other parent. It is important that parents do not disparage or bad-mouth the other parent in the presence of the minor children. Evidence of this could be detrimental to the offending party's case.
- History – The court will consider the home, school, religious, and community history of the child.
- Ability to provide – The court will consider each parent's ability to meet the child's material needs.
- Moral fitness – The court will consider the moral fitness of each parent, as it affects the child.
- Past caregiver – The court will consider the roles and responsibilities each of the parents assumed prior to the institution of the custody proceeding.
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