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Lake Charles
Child Custody Lawyer

Fontenot & Shumaker are your trusted Lake Charles Child Custody Attorneys. 

Practice Area

Family Law - Child Custody

Understanding Child Custody Types in Louisiana

When entering the realm of child custody discussions in Lake Charles, Louisiana, it’s imperative to start with a foundational understanding of the types of custody recognized by the state. Child custody encompasses who makes important decisions for a child and where a child primarily resides. Louisiana law categorizes custody into two main types:

  • Legal Custody: This type of custody is all about decision-making power regarding the child’s upbringing. It includes making important decisions on behalf of the child, such as those related to education, health care, and religious instruction. Legal custody can be joint, where both parents share this responsibility, or sole, where only one parent has the authority to make these decisions.
  • Physical Custody: Contrary to legal custody, physical custody pertains to where the child lives most of the time. This can also be divided into joint physical custody, where the child spends significant time with both parents, or sole physical custody, where the child primarily lives with one parent, and the other may have visitation rights.

Understanding these custody types is the first step in navigating the complexities of family law in Louisiana. It helps to clarify the arrangements you might pursue and prepares you for discussions about what arrangement would best suit your child’s needs and interests.

How Does A Louisiana Court Determines Child Custody?

In Louisiana, the overarching principle guiding child custody decisions is the best interest of the child. Courts delve into various factors to determine what arrangement will best support the child’s wellbeing, health, and happiness. Here are several critical factors considered by the court:

  • Emotional Ties: The strength of the emotional connection between the child and each parent is assessed. A strong, nurturing bond can be a decisive factor.
  • Capacity for Care: Courts evaluate each parent’s ability to provide not just for the child’s basic needs like food, shelter, and health care, but also for love, affection, and spiritual and intellectual development.
  • Stability: The importance of a stable and consistent home environment is paramount. This includes evaluating the desirability of maintaining continuity in the child’s home, community, and educational settings.
  • Parental Health: Both the physical and mental health of the parents are taken into account, focusing on how these factors might impact the child.
  • History of Violence or Abuse: Any history of physical or emotional abuse by a parent, whether directed at the child, the other parent, or others, can significantly impact custody decisions.
  • Child’s Preference: In certain cases, depending on the child’s age and ability to make reasoned decisions, the court may consider the child’s own preferences regarding custody.

Navigating through these considerations often requires the strategic insight and support of a skilled child custody attorney in Lake Charles who can present your case effectively while advocating for the best interest of your child.


How Can A Lake Charles Child Custody Attorney Help?

Finding yourself amid a child custody dispute can be an emotionally trying and complex legal challenge. However, with the support of a dedicated Lake Charles Child Custody Attorney, navigating these waters can become a process marked by advocacy, clarity, and a focus on achieving the best outcomes for your child. Here’s how an experienced child custody lawyer can assist:

  • Expert Legal Guidance: A specialized attorney can provide critical insights into Louisiana’s child custody laws, helping you understand your rights, responsibilities, and the best legal strategies to pursue.
  • Custody Plan Development: Crafting a custody plan that reflects your child’s best interests is paramount. Your attorney can help formulate a comprehensive plan that covers all bases, ensuring the child’s needs are front and center.
  • Negotiation and Mediation: Many custody disputes can be resolved outside of court through negotiation or mediation. An attorney adept in these processes can advocate for your interests and strive for a fair, amicable resolution.
  • Court Representation: If your case heads to court, having an experienced lawyer to represent you is invaluable. They will present your case, argue on your behalf, and strive to persuade the court of the custody arrangement that best serves your child.
  • Support and Guidance: Beyond the legal aspects, a child custody attorney also understands the emotional toll these disputes can take. They can offer support and guidance throughout this challenging time.

A Lake Charles Child Custody Attorney doesn’t just represent you legally; they’re a cornerstone of support, aiming to protect both your rights as a parent and the well-being of your child.

What Are Child Custody Modifications?

Life is anything but static, and changes in circumstances might necessitate revisiting and modifying existing child custody arrangements. Child Custody Modifications are legal adjustments made to the custody and visitation agreements to better suit the evolving needs and best interests of the child involved. Here’s when and why they might come into play:

  • Significant Changes in Circumstances: A substantial change in the living situation of either parent, such as relocation, a new job, or a change in health status, can prompt a reconsideration of the custody arrangements.
  • Child’s Needs: As a child grows, their educational, emotional, and physical needs change. Modifications can ensure that the custody agreement continues to serve their best interests.
  • Compliance Issues: If one parent is consistently not adhering to the terms of the custody arrangement, modifications might be necessary to ensure the child’s needs are met.
  • Safety Concerns: Should concerns arise about the child’s safety or wellbeing in the current custody arrangement, immediate modifications can be sought to protect the child.

Requesting a custody modification involves legal proceedings where the requesting party must demonstrate that significant changes have occurred since the original agreement was made, warranting an adjustment for the child’s benefit. An experienced Lake Charles Child Custody Attorney can guide you through this process, gathering the necessary evidence and presenting a compelling case for modification.


What is Child Relocation?

Child relocation is a significant issue in custody arrangements, occurring when the custodial parent proposes to move the child’s residence to a location that materially impacts the current custody and visitation schedule. In Lake Charles, Louisiana, such moves are not taken lightly due to their potential impact on the child’s relationship with both parents.

Louisiana law requires the relocating parent to notify the other parent of the intended move well in advance, typically providing:

  • The proposed new address, if known
  • The reasons for the proposed relocation
  • A revised visitation schedule, if applicable

The non-relocating parent has the option to agree to the relocation or file an objection. If an objection is raised, the court becomes involved to determine whether the relocation serves the child’s best interest, considering factors like:

  • The potential benefits of the move for the child and relocating parent
  • The reasons behind the non-relocating parent’s objection
  • The impact on the child’s relationship with the non-relocating parent

Navigating a child relocation involves complex legal and emotional considerations, often requiring the expertise of a Lake Charles Child Custody Attorney to advocate for the best interests of the child while balancing the rights and concerns of both parents.

Choose a Lake Charles Child Custody Lawyer

Selecting the right Lake Charles Child Custody Lawyer is a pivotal decision that can significantly influence the outcome of your custody case. Here are some essential factors to consider when making this choice:

  • Experience and Specialization: Look for a lawyer with a strong background in family law, specifically child custody cases. Experience in handling similar cases to yours in Louisiana can provide valuable insights and strategies.
  • Communication: Effective communication is crucial. Your attorney should be easy to reach, responsive, and make complex legal concepts understandable, ensuring you’re fully informed at every step.
  • Negotiation and Litigation Skills: Depending on the nature of your custody dispute, you may need an attorney skilled in negotiation for amicable resolutions or a formidable litigator for contested cases.
  • References and Testimonials: Personal references or online reviews can offer insights into the lawyer’s track record, success rate, and ability to compassionately advocate for their clients.
  • Compatibility: It’s essential you feel comfortable with and trust your attorney, as you’ll be sharing personal details and relying on their advice. A good fit can ease the stress of the legal process.

Your child custody lawyer is not just your legal representative but also your advocate, advisor, and support system through one of life’s most challenging periods. Taking the time to select the right attorney ensures you’re well-equipped to navigate custody proceedings with confidence, aiming for the best possible outcome for your child.

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2706 Hodges Street Lake Charles, Louisiana 70601

Lake Charles Child Custody Lawyer FAQ's

The cost of a child custody lawyer in Louisiana can vary widely based on several factors such as the attorney’s experience, the complexity of your case, and the amount of time and resources required to resolve your custody dispute. 


Generally, attorneys may charge either an hourly rate, which can range from $100 to $400 or more, or a flat fee for more straightforward cases. It’s also important to consider additional costs such as court fees, costs for mediation, and expenses for any required evaluations or reports. For a more accurate estimate, it’s best to consult directly with a child custody lawyer in Lake Charles who can assess the specifics of your situation.

Gaining custody of your child in Louisiana involves filing a petition for custody with the family court. The court will then evaluate the case based on the best interests of the child, considering factors like the child’s age and health, each parent’s living situation and ability to provide care, and the child’s bond with each parent among others. Demonstrating your ability to provide a stable, nurturing environment is key. It’s highly recommended to work with a skilled child custody attorney in Lake Charles who can guide you through the legal process, help you prepare your case, and advocate on your behalf in court.

In Louisiana, a child’s preference regarding which parent to live with can be considered by the court, but it is just one of many factors evaluated in determining custody. While there’s no specific age at which a child can decide, a judge is more likely to consider the wishes of a child who is older and more mature — typically around 12 years old or older. However, the child’s choice is not determinative. The court’s primary concern remains the best interests of the child, and the judge will weigh the child’s preference against other important considerations.

In Louisiana child custody cases, judges focus on the best interests of the child, taking into account a wide range of factors to ensure the child’s well-being, safety, and happiness. These factors include the emotional ties between the child and each parent, the capacity of each parent to provide love, affection, and guidance, the stability of each parent’s home environment, the parents’ moral fitness, and the child’s school and community records. The judge may also consider the child’s preference if they are of sufficient age and maturity. The aim is to create a custody arrangement that supports a positive and healthy upbringing for the child.

In Louisiana, fathers have the same rights as mothers in child custody cases — the court does not give preference based on gender. A father seeking custody should focus on demonstrating that he can provide a stable, supportive, and nurturing environment for the child, that he has a strong, positive relationship with the child, and that gaining custody would be in the child’s best interests. This can include providing evidence of involvement in the child’s daily life, educational support, and ability to meet the child’s emotional and physical needs. Engaging a knowledgeable Lake Charles child custody attorney can offer strategic advice and representation, improving the chances of achieving a favorable outcome in court.

To ensure your rights are protected, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney by your side. They will advocate for your rights, challenge evidence, and work toward a fair resolution.