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Lafayette Family Law Blog

Changes in families brings changes in child support expectations

Louisiana courts have seen interesting changes in family law over the past few years. Some decades-old provisions that were taken for granted are now becoming less mainstream. Mothers having careers and fathers taking more active roles in raising children have led many to reconsider common issues like child support and alimony. More often, divorce settlements do not include those items.

While it is probably not likely that child support will ever become a thing of the past, the changes in post-divorce family dynamics are making it less necessary for many parents. More collaborative divorces mean that parents do not necessarily become adversaries after the settlement. Fathers are asking for equal parenting time instead of the traditional visitation schedule of alternating weekends and occasional overnights with the kids. With parenting responsibilities divided more equally, child support may not be necessary.

Disputes may be avoided by talking about money before marriage

The holiday season often brings a feeling of romance, which turns many Louisiana couples to thoughts of engagement and marriage. Soon, the two may begin planning their wedding, reception and honeymoon, interspersed with decisions about where and how they will live. It may seem that discussing finances soon after a proposal is not very romantic, but having a frank conversation now may prevent future disputes over money, the most common cause of divorce.

The first thing financial planners suggest is that couples share their philosophies of money. While one person may feel that money is meant to be enjoyed, the other may see money as something to save and protect as security. Establishing these differences, which often stem from a person's upbringing, will help the two reach a common attitude about their future.

Will you be given a fair chance at custody as a father?

Traditionally, mothers received preference when it comes to custody of the children. Now, the courts use "the best interests" of the children as a guide to awarding custody. Supposedly, this approach looks at mothers and fathers equally, but as many men in Louisiana already know, mothers still tend to receive preferential treatment.

Domestic abuse reports drop during holidays

The common assumption is that domestic violence rises during the holidays. When the whole family is together, the closeness and commotion may wear on raw nerves. It has been reported that people drinking to excess and feeling the stress or disappointment of the day raises emotions and tempers. However, while there are certainly incidents of abuse in Louisiana and elsewhere, studies show that these perceptions are not necessarily true. 

In fact, the rise in domestic violence does not actually occur until after the holidays, according to studies. The National Domestic Violence Hotline typically sees up to 53 percent fewer calls for assistance on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Some who work with victims of domestic violence believe that abusers may be on their best behavior for the sake of the family on those special days. It could also be that victims simply do not report abuse on those days unless it is a matter of life and death. 

Startling domestic abuse statistics

Intimate relationships are meant to foster love and mutual respect between two people. When one partner becomes controlling or abusive, the other may find himself or herself in a day to day struggle for survival. Statistics show that in Louisiana and across the country, abuse by an intimate partner is not as uncommon as some may think. In fact, over 10 million people are victims of domestic violence each year.

While women are more likely to be physically and sexually abused, men still fall victim to abuse by intimate partners, and the numbers are climbing. One in every three women admits to being abused at some point in her lifetime, and one in four men have had similar experiences. However, women are far more likely to be stalked by someone with whom they had a relationship. Almost half of women who reported being raped said the attacker was a current or former partner.

Spousal support is usually based on several factors

When a marriage ends, one topic that stirs heated emotions may be alimony. Since each marriage is different, it follows that the decisions and judgments made in each divorce will be unique. Spousal support in Louisiana is determined by a judge who takes many factors into consideration.

In most states, the court's general assumption is that the person requesting support will eventually become financially independent. This may not always be possible, for example, if the person seeking support is a woman in her 60s who has not worked since before her marriage. In most cases, the judge will consider how much the recipient could potentially earn, and if the recipient can live on that amount. Having a projected budget will assist the court in determining one's needs.

Does Louisiana treat fathers fairly in child custody cases?

If you are going through a divorce or separation, or if you are an unwed father in Louisiana, it is easy to feel like the court is not on your side. A lot of men feel that mothers are given special treatment when it comes to child custody cases. In the past, this may have been true. However, the courts now recognize the significant roles fathers play in the lives of their children and take that into consideration when determining custody arrangements.

Fathers still seeking fair child custody arrangements

Advocates for fathers' rights say they have seen significant improvements in divorces involving children. In the past 20 years, child custody cases have become more focused on the best interests of the child, and many parents are willing to set aside their differences and work for that goal. However, studies show that many divorced dads are still fighting for regular, adequate contact with their children. While the situation may be improving, some feel there are still too many disadvantages that keep fathers in Louisiana separated from their children.

One major stumbling block for many fathers is money. Because of child support obligations, many fathers have little cash left to establish a home for their children. One man explained that his time with his children is limited because there is simply no space for them in his tiny home, and he cannot afford to buy a bigger place. Some advocates for fathers' rights also feel that restraining orders and accusations of domestic violence are overused in family court and often force already struggling fathers into expensive rehabilitation programs.

To simpify property division, separated couples evaluate finances

Often when couples in Louisiana consider divorce, they do not have a clear idea of how drastically their financial situations may change. Along with property division comes the division of debt, and this may take its toll on any savings or plans for the future. The possibility of a couple in a troubled marriage being able to peacefully discuss finances may be slim, but if they take advantage of the separation period to make some decisions, things might go more smoothly during and after the proceedings.

One major decision many couples must make is what to do with the house in the event of a divorce. Each state has particular rules about living arrangements during a separation, and couples should contact their individual attorneys for advice. Meanwhile, some couples opt to rent out their homes until they decide on the fate of their marriages. That way, if they decide to stay together, they still have their home.

In contested divorce, electronic evidence is becoming the norm

Within the past decade, many divorce proceedings in Louisiana have involved a different kind of expert witness: the family computer. Some attorneys have contributed to a dramatic increase in the investigation of social media in contested divorce cases in the past three years. They use it not merely to gather evidence against a client's adversary, but to gain a better understanding of the client and the circumstances leading to the divorce.

Former congressman Anthony Weiner and his wife Huma Abedin have been embroiled in a highly public divorce after Mr. Weiner's electronic communications revealed his infidelities. With Ms. Abedin's request for divorce came an investigation of her husband's data, some of which became public. While most people will not have federal investigators scrutinizing their emails and texts, advisors recommend that people use their technology as if this were the case, especially if a divorce is on the horizon.

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