A Louisiana custody order explains the basics of how parents should share responsibility for their children when they divorce or begin living in separate homes. Parents negotiating arrangements as they prepare for divorce or a judge entering the custody order in a litigated family law matter will typically invest a lot of consideration into the creation of the best possible terms. The ideal approach requires that the adults act in the best interests of the children, typically by helping them spend as much time with both of their parents as possible unless there are safety or serious logistical challenges associated with that approach.
Usually, an initial child custody and parenting plan order can serve their purpose for years, possibly until the children are adults. Occasionally, parents will come to the realization that their existing custody order does not meet the needs of their family anymore and that they need to modify their order. There are typically two approaches possible for custody modifications that mirror the two main approaches to the establishment of an initial custody order.
An uncontested approach
If there has been a significant change in the family circumstances and both of the parents agree that making a change to the custody order is necessary, they can pursue an uncontested modification by submitting paperwork to the courts. Judges simply need to review and approve the requested changes to the parenting plan.
A litigated or contested approach
The unfortunate truth about co-parenting is that the adults who share custody of minor children often do not agree about how to split their time, how to share decision-making authority or how to do what would be best for the children. Sometimes, it will be necessary for one parent to ask the courts to modify the custody order despite the opposition of their co-parent.
In a contested or litigated modification request, a Louisiana parent will need to meet a standard established in an important prior Louisiana custody case. They generally need to establish that there has been a substantial change in family circumstances that warrants a modification. They will also have to prove that either the current arrangements put the child at risk or that the proposed modification would benefit the children far more than it would harm them by disrupting their lives.
Taking a thoughtful approach to seeking a modification can be as important as fine-tuning the terms one seeks from the family courts. Learning about the different approaches to modifying custody orders may help parents who share custody in Louisiana to better ensure that their custody order reflects what is best for the children.