Child Custody and Education

Although they are controversial, Common Core academic standards are intended to ensure that Louisiana students are able to compete for good jobs here and elsewhere.  All parents worry about the quality of the education available to their children in their local public schools.  When parents separate, children are often moved from one school to another.  What happens if your soon to be ex-spouse plans to enroll your child in a “new” school that is not as good as the “old” school that your child attended when you all lived together?  The judge responsible for deciding who should have custody of your child may consider the quality of the education available if the child resides with you.  However, that factor is only one of many that will influence the decision.  Louisiana Civil Code article 134 contains a non-exclusive list of things that affect a child’s best interest including the emotional ties between each parent and the child, the capacity of each parent to satisfy the child’s material needs, the moral fitness of each parent, and the mental and physical health of each party.  If your spouse objects to your being designated as primary physical custodian, you must be able to provide the judge with the evidence necessary to support your claim that you satisfy more of the factors than your opponent.

Child Custody and Your Duty to Pack Your Child’s Book Report

the beautiful little children with a suitcase of toys isolated on a white background

You’ve left family court in Baton Rouge and the ink is dry on your 50-50 joint child custodyjudgment.  You are paying or receiving a just amount of child support.  The worst is over. Wrong. If you do not realize that your children are now living out of a suit case that you must pack, unpack, and inspect as if you were a member of the TSA, you are not ready for what comes next.

One of the largest bones of contention between divorced parents is each one’s failure to ensure that homework, school books, notebooks, shoes, uniforms, toothbrushes, medication, cell phones, and computers are packed up and delivered when the children change residences at the 50 yard line.  Depending on the age of your children, you may think that they can get their things together themselves.  This is a delusion.

Even the most careful adult will occasionally forget something tucked away in the bottom drawer of a dresser in a hotel room or accidentally kicked underneath the bed.  Multiply that risk by 1,000 and you have the likelihood that your 8 year old will forget to take his book report with him when he leaves your house for his other one.  Ensuring that your children arrive with all their accoutrements is your job and you must take it seriously.  If you do not, you may be consulting with your lawyer again sooner than you thought.

Tips For a Smooth Child Custody and Visitation Schedule

Baton Rouge traffic is challenging during rush hours. No one who does not know exactly where they are going and how to get there should be on the streets between 6 AM and 8 AM and 4 PM and 6 PM.  They are just in the way of people anxious to arrive.  Traffic adds to the stress of picking up and delivering children during custody changes and for scheduled visitation.

A good working relationship with your former partner is the key to dealing with the unpredictable nature of modern local travel.  If, however, you are dealing with someone on the other side who insists on an inflexible timetable for pick up and delivery, advance planning can help.  Planning should start before you sign your consent judgment on custody and visitation. Before you come up with your child custody and visitation schedule, consider the following.

  • Think about traffic patterns, your work schedule, and whether you can get someone to stand in for you if you cannot pick up the children yourself.
  • Think about whether that person’s appearance at the point of exchange will be acceptable to your former “other”.
  • Pick a point of exchange that is away from the most congested routes and make sure the way to get there is not across the I-10 Bridge at 4:00 PM on a Friday.

There is a great temptation to think that you can deal with these details later. Don’t give in to it. Be prepared.

Unintended Consquences – Father’s Rights in Louisiana

Katy Perry says she’s “not anti-men” but that if “someone doesn’t present himself”, she might consider having a baby without “a dude” according to the August 18, 2014 edition of People. Since “a dude”, in one form or another, is a necessary ingredient in pregnancy, avoiding a relationship does not necessarily mean avoiding the father.

In Louisiana, fathers have legally protected rights to participate in the lives of their children whether you want them to or not. Unless the father is unfit, a mother can be ordered to permit him to visit and share custody of the child.

Father’s rights in Louisiana also come with obligations in the form of the payment of child support. The calculation of support is made relatively simple in Louisiana through the use ofchild support schedules. The schedules set out monetary assumptions about what children need for food, clothing, education, and other necessities. The schedules calculate a parent’s pro-rata share of her child’s support based upon the sum of each parent’s income or earning capacity. Child support increases as the parents’ combined incomes increase and is increased if there is more than one child in a family. The schedules are blind to whether a father is or is not “a dude” who has presented himself.

If you are seeking support for your child or being asked to pay it, discuss your obligations with a lawyer and ask how the schedules work in your case.

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Creation Myth – Understanding Divorce and Child Custody In Louisiana

Sad woman, tearing a family photo

It’s “very sexual” said a confidant of Khloe’ Kardashian and French Montana’s six month relationship according to the July 21, 2014 edition of US Weekly.  The same article reports that Ms. Kardashian’s goal is to “get pregnant – soon”.  She hopes to “reform” Montana, a “former drug dealer”, although whether his transformation is expected to precede or follow parenthood was not disclosed.

The birth of a child is a life changing event, but the changes that each parent undergoes are not always the ones you would expect – or desire.  Whether you are a man or a woman, do not assume that the birth of a child will change your sow’s ear into a silk purse. When expectations are not met this often lead to divorce.  Understanding child custody and divorce law in Louisiana may be something to consider.

When the Bough Breaks… Protecting Your Kids from Child Abuse

Soft toys hangings above a cradle in a nursery, lighted up light from a window

The cradle will fall – so goes an old lullaby. What kind of a mother would put her child’s cradle in a tree? Perhaps the kind of mother who would poison her 5 year old son in order to gain attention for herself. The July 7, 2014 edition of People reports the arrest of a young woman in the poisoning death of her son.

Prosecutors theorize that Lacey Spears poisoned Garnett out of a desire to be perceived as a nobly suffering mother. Her sacrifices in the face of his suffering earned her the admiration of others. The mental disorder leading to this type of behavior is called Munchausen by proxy.

Parents and grandparents in Louisiana should be alert to child abuse by being aware of evidence of unusual, unexplained illnesses in their children and grandchildren. If you are concerned that your child may be suffering at the hands of a caretaker or close relative, Louisiana’s Child Protection Services can help.

You should also seek the advice of an attorney since changes of custodial arrangements may be needed.

What’s Cooking? Parental Rights After Divorce

Cute boy eating a apple or hamburger. Focus on the apple and hamburger. Isolated on a white background

In the June 23, 2014 edition of People, a happy Honey Boo Boo Thompson frolics in a swimming pool looking pleasantly plump in her two piece swim suit.  Obesity in children is a hot topic these days with public schools responding by imposing health foods, relatively speaking, on parents and children who had been content with tater tots, fish sticks, and catsup.

What are your parental rights after divorce? What do you do if your “ex” allows your children to gorge on fried mayonnaise sticks at their house?

Can you control what your child eats and drinks once they are in the custody of your former spouse?

In Louisiana, chances are that the answer is “no” unless there is a significant health or moral issue involved.  During marriage, children’s diets are a reflection of their parents’ combined opinions concerning what tastes good and what is good for you.  After divorce, each spouse has, within sensible limits, the right to determine what’s for dinner.

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Happy Fathers Day! Child Support Laws in Louisiana

Child support

Halle Berry must pay her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry $16,000 per month for the support of their daughter, Nahla, according to the June 23, 2014 edition of People.  The order was rendered by a California judge in Los Angeles.

In Louisiana, such high awards of support are the exception, not the rule.  However, Louisiana parents who earn large amounts of money can expect to pay proportionately high child support.

Regardless of the relative wealth or poverty of divorcing or separating parents, the objective ofsupport awards is to ensure that children do not suffer unduly from their parents’ decision to dissolve their economic relationship.  Sometimes this means that very large sums of money are placed in the hands of parents who may not use it for their child’s benefit.

If you are the bread winner, you may want to speak with your lawyer about what means are available to ensure that the money you pay for your child’s support is spent only for that purpose.

Generation Gap – When Legal Custody in Favor of a Grandparent is Best

is third in the nation for the number of children being raised by their grandparents, according to the April 27, 2014 edition of The Advocate. Sometimes grandparents have legal custody of their grandchildren.  Sometimes they have de facto custody of them. Sometimes grandparents provide “day care” and “night care” if a parent’s work schedule makes grandchild care a necessity.

There are circumstances where legal custody in favor of a grandparent is important for the child’s benefit.  If a parent is absent or works out of state, some form of custody in favor of a grandparent is often necessary in order to register the grandchild in school or obtain medical treatment. Provisional custody by mandate is one way to temporarily confer limited authority on a grandparent (or another person) so that he or she can meet the child’s daily needs. In some cases, grandparents actively seek to remove custody of their grandchildren from their own children because of abuse or neglect.

Grandparents who are responsible for raising their grandchildren often find themselves in financial difficulty with additional mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and shelter.  Programs such as Head Start’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren help grandparents with limited financial resources obtain financial assistance.  In addition, federal programs such as “Kinship Care” and Baton Rouge’s community development program can provide support.  If you are a grandparent raising a grandchild and need official documentation of your authority to act on the child’s behalf, you should consult with a family lawyer.

This World or the Next? The Decision to Terminate Life Support

As of the March 29, 2014 edition of The Advocate, the mother of a 13 year old daughter whose doctors describe as “brain dead” continued to insist that there was hope she would revive.  As of that date, Jahi McMath was at an undisclosed location on a ventilator.  Her mother described her as “very responsive”.  Unlike in the Terry Schiavo situation, where parents and a husband were at odds over continuing life support, the McMath family seems united in its efforts to keep Jahi alive.

What would happen in Louisiana if divorced parents disagreed over whether to terminate life support for a child deemed “brain dead”?  The power of life and death is qualitatively different from the authority to change a child’s doctor, school or church.  The power of life and death does not neatly fit within the authority of a sole or even a primary physical custodian.  A non-custodial parent or one who is not the primary custodial parent in a scheme of joint custody could certainly argue that withholding life support requires the consent of both parents.

Presumably, if the parents could not agree, a court could make the decision as a court did in the Schiavo case.  However, that decision would have to be based on the “best interests” of the child.  Arguing that it is in a child’s “best interest” to be placed beyond all hope of recovery is counterintuitive.    It is difficult to imagine the circumstances in which a judge would order a child’s physical death in the absence of great physical suffering.  If you find yourself in this tragic situation, you should seek legal advice and counsel.