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Louisiana child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Louisiana child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Child Support determined in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, both parents are responsible for the support of any children from the marriage. The courts consider the needs of the child and the resources of each parent.

There are specific Louisiana Child Support Guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to determine the correct amount of child support. These will be followed, unless both parents agree to an amount other that calculated by the guidelines, or the courts decide the guidelines are unjust based on these factors:

  • extraordinary medical expenses for the child or the parent responsible for child support
  • disability of the parent responsible for support
  • the need for immediate or temporary support
  • an extraordinary community debt both parents share
  • the combined income of the parents is less than that in the state guidelines
  • having other dependents to support
  • any other factors that would render the guidelines unjust

Louisiana child support guidelines are defined by a schedule for support which is based on the gross monthly income of both parents and the ratio of the paying parent's income to that of the receiving parent. The schedule does not just define a specific percentage of the net income of the paying parent as the support obligation. 

The support obligation is also based in part on the cost of the medical insurance premium, the cost of any daycare necessary for the parent to work and the cost of any private school tuition to which both parents had consented.

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age unless the child is still in high school - in which case the support ends upon the child's graduation from high school, or the child's 19th birthday, whichever occurs first.

Louisiana's custody guidelines:

Generally, the parents agree upon decisions about custody. If there is no agreement, then the courts will make these custody decisions. In Louisiana, joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child. This is the order of the court's preference:

  • joint custody
  • custody to either parent without considering race or sex
  • custody to the person(s) the child has been living with
  • custody to any other person the courts feel would provide an adequate and stable environment for the child

Joint custody, the court's preference, will be awarded based on
the following:

  • the physical, emotional, religious and social needs of the child and the capability and desire of each parent to meet those needs
  • the preference of the child, if of sufficient age
  • the wishes of the parents
  • the love and affection between the child and each parent
  • the time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to maintain this, including the permanence of the custodial home
  • the child's adjustment to home, school and community settings
  • the willingness of each parent to allow for an open, loving and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent
  • the physical and emotional health of all involved
  • the distance between the parent's homes
  • the moral fitness of each parent and any other relevant factors

Any conduct of the parents, which does not affect their relationship with the child, will not be considered in the custody decision. The parents should submit a plan for joint custody which designates the child¹s residence, child support payments and outlines the right to access and communication between each parent and the child. A parent not granted custody is allowed visitation, unless that parent has abused the child.

Louisiana's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent's employment, they are required to cover their child on it. The parent paying this premium receives credit on the child support computation.

How permanent are the provisions for Louisiana child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Yes. Louisiana, like most states, has a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. It is withheld much like income tax is withheld from earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

The current trend is to encourage parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Joint custody is now widely recognized as the preferred parenting plan for divorcing parents. In Louisiana, joint custody is the courts’ preferred option, if it proves to be in the best interests of the child. The factors the courts consider in deciding on joint custody are outlined above.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually one parent is named as the domiciliary parent and the other parent is granted visitation. The domiciliary parent typically retains the decision making power to determine all decisions other than major decisions. Major decisions can include the choice of school and significant medical treatment.

How Louisiana determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree, the courts must impose a visitation schedule. If the parents have been awarded joint custody, some common visitation schedules are as follows:

  • 50/50 custody - the child stays one week at one parent's house and one week at the other parent's house
  • the child is at the domiciliary parent's house every day but three weekends out of the month he or she will spend at the other parent's house; the child spends 60% of holidays at the non-domiciliary parent's house; in the summer, the child is with the non-domiciliary parent and visits the domiciliary parent every other weekend
  • the child spends every other weekend, one day during the week and a significant amount of time in the summer with the non-domiciliary parent; the child may spend the whole summer with the non-domiciliary parent and every other weekend with the domiciliary parent

If sole custody has been awarded to a parent, a visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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