Louisiana courts, and in particular the family courts that a divorce lawyer often practices in, typically use the Louisiana Civil Code article 134 in making child custody decisions. Article 134 has twelve sections, or “factors” that a court can and perhaps should consider when awarding child custody in a particular case. One of these factors is section (7), which tasks the court with evaluating “the mental and physical health of each parent.”
To some people it might seem pretty obvious that there can be situations wherein one parent is simply unable to care for the child because of a serious physical ailment. For example, let us say that six months before the custody battle between two parents takes place, one parent is involved in a very bad car accident. The accident resulted in the parent losing all mobility and motor function in their limbs. A divorce lawyer would still of course represent that parent’s right to see their child, but they would also likely consider heavily the fact that that parent may not be equipped to be the custodial parent. This possibility becomes even more great if the child at issue is of a particularly young age; one that would require a parent to have at least some degree of physical mobility to adequately care for the child.
That said, a parent who is confined to wheelchair will not necessarily lose a custody dispute for their child. A divorce lawyer will take into account the disability, but there are thousands of handicapped people who are more than capable of providing adequate support for their child.
The health of the parent can also be an issue in a custody dispute from a mental standpoint. Sometimes, this can be an even more foggy area of inquiry for a court. Take for example a parent who has been diagnosed with clinical depression. Does this mean it is impossible for them to become the custodial parent? A divorce lawyer will consider all relevant facts; and depression in and of itself may not bar the possibility of being the custodial parent so long as that parent can put up other evidence showing their mental fitness.
There are other mental health issues which may defeat a parent’s desire to be the custodial parent however. Take for example an older parent, who is suffering from the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Let’s say that they routinely forget simple tasks and responsibilities, and their doing so highly calls into question their ability to care for a child. In this case, a court may consider the mental illness determinative in awarding custody.
It is importantly to be completely candid and truthful when appearing before any Louisiana family court. If a parent does have a mental or physical affliction, they should be up front about it. While it does not always preclude the possibility of them being awarded custody, they should be sure to develop and bring forth other evidence to present to the court showing that indeed they are nonetheless fit to parent their child in a responsible way.
This article is written with the sole intention of providing information. It is not legal advice. Will Beaumont is a divorce lawyer in New Orleans, LA.