The state of Louisiana has courts designed to deal with family law issues. The courts themselves act largely in accordance with the Louisiana Civil Code articles and Revised Statutes on point with the issue at hand. This is the case with child custody disputes.
Sometimes a child custody situation can be resolved by the parents alone without the need for a divorce lawyer. Other times, it requires the intervention by the court. In the case where a court needs to determine for the parties who will have custody of the child or children, one source of guidance is Louisiana Civil Code article 134. Article 134 has twelve sections that a court can use as a lens though which to view the fitness of each parent. Today’s essay will be on the subject of section (6), which tells the court to consider “the moral fitness of each party, insofar as it affects the welfare of the child.”
Questioning the “moral fitness” of each parent may seem like a no-brainer to some people, but it is not always easy. For example, let’s say that one of the parents is a recovering gambling addict. Should they be denied custody of the child? Let’s say they have not gambled in twenty years. What should a divorce lawyer present to a court then?
As section (6) indicates, a court in that instance will probably view the old gambling problem “insofar as it affects the welfare of the child.” If that parent can convince a court that their gambling days are long behind them, then a court will probably not consider it to be a problem.
A situation may also arise where both parents have a morally questionable past. Sometimes, in particularly bitter custodial battles, this is precisely the type of case that the divorce lawyer will try and make. These types of accusations, if proven, have to be of a somewhat serious nature to warrant the courts consideration of their merit.
For example, if one parent has an extramarital affair before the divorce lawyer legally ends the marriage, this alone, while certainly a moral lapse, is probably not enough for a Louisiana family court to determine that that parent is unfit to have custody. However, if that same parent has displayed over the years a proven track record of carousing, and doing so in a reckless manner which could jeopardize their ability to raise their child effectively, a court might consider it more important.
To take another example, let’s say that one parent is convicted of a DWI only weeks before the custody hearing. This may be indicative of a larger drinking problem, which, if proven, could affect the court’s decision and the way that his divorce lawyer approaches his case. That is to say, if that parent has three or five DUI convictions, that could call into question their ability to provide a safe environment for their child. However, if the DUI is shown to be an isolated incident, a court might let it slide.
Like many family law issues, we are often talking about different shades of gray. Each case needs to be evaluated on its individual merits before a conclusion can be drawn by a court.
This article is written with the sole intention of providing information. It is not legal advice. Will Beaumont is an attorney in Metairie and New Orleans, La.