Incorrect information may lead one parent to believe that he or she may have more rights to their child than the other parent, and this leads to damage that the child may never be able to overcome. Remember, parents may grow apart and begin new relationships but they always will have their child in common, and must strive to co-parent. It is not difficult to become a father or mother, but earning the honorable titles of Mom and Dad is the best accomplishment a parent can achieve.
Legislators recognize that an agreement reached with minimal court involvement produces the best results, thus if the parents agree who is to have custody, the court shall award custody in accordance with their agreement, unless the best interest of the child requires a different award. In the absence of agreement - or if the agreement is not in the best interest of the child - the court shall award custody to the parents jointly; however, if custody in one parent is shown by clear and convincing evidence to serve the best interest of the child, the court shall award custody to that parent. The court shall consider all relevant factors in determining the best interest of the child. Such factors may include:
• The love, affection, and other emotional ties between each party and the child.
• The capacity and disposition of each party to give the child love, affection, and spiritual guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child.
• The capacity and disposition of each party to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs.
• The length of time the child has lived in a stable, adequate environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity of that environment.
• The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.
• The moral fitness of each party, insofar as it affects the welfare of the child.
• The mental and physical health of each party.
• The home, school, and community history of the child.
• The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
• The willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close and
continuing relationship between the child and the other party.
• The distance between the respective residences of the parties.
• The responsibility for the care and rearing of the child previously exercised by each party. [Based on Louisiana Civil Code - Articles 132 and 134].
One of the most common child custody questions asked is, "At what age can a child decide which parent to live with?" There is typically no specific age when a minor child can ultimately decide which parent he/she wants to live with. It is usually up to the court or a judge to decide if parents do not agree on child custody and visitation. Whether a judge considers a child's wish often depends on the child's age, maturity, reasons, specific circumstances of the case, state law, and whether it is in the child's best interest to testify. Generally, the older and more mature the child is, the more likely the court will listen to his/her wishes and the more weight his/her wishes will be given.