General Philosophy and Practice
It is always in the best interest of the child if the parents can amicably resolve the issue of custody. In accordance with this belief, I drafted Louisiana’s first mediation statute. Unfortunately, because custody is such a highly personal and emotional matter, it is often difficult for spouses to reach a common ground.If the parties are unsuccessful in compromising their custody dispute, the courts often times appoint an independent, mental health professional to interview the parties and the children. This expert then makes custody/visitation recommendations which the judges either implement or give great weight to in making their decisions.
Therefore, it is important for clients to be thoroughly prepared prior to meeting with the evaluator so they can present their best case and be aware of what factors that the expert will consider in making a “best interest” determination. I meet with the clients before their first session with the evaluator to assist them with these interviews.
I have made presentations at Louisiana and American Bar Association seminars on the subject of “How to Prepare a Client for a Custody Evaluation.” It is important for the client to know the topics that will be covered in the evaluation meeting and to know what information to present or not present to the evaluator. While results are not guaranteed, the client is more organized and confident about the evaluation process after our session.
I have specialized expertise in litigating custody matters because of my mental health background and having practiced in that field prior to becoming an attorney. I have been very successful in cross-examining mental health experts if the expert renders recommendations which are adverse to my client’s objectives. I have litigated many complicated and complex custody disputes and get referred these type of cases by other attorneys.
As stated above settlement should always be the primary objective. However, if litigation is necessary, my clients will have an experienced and aggressive advocate to represent them.
A party can seek to relocate their child if they are the primary custodian or have been awarded equal physical custody. Relocation occurs if the primary custodian seeks to move the child seventy-five (75) miles from their principal residence or move from the State of Louisiana.In order to relocate, the party needs either the consent of the other parent or court authorization. If the non-relocating parent objects, then there is an evidentiary hearing wherein the court makes a determination based on the factors set forth in our relocation statute.
I was the primary author of the relocation statute when it was first enacted by the Legislature. While there have been several amendments to the initial legislation, the burden remains the same. The relocating parent must prove that the move is made in good faith and that the relocation is in the best interest of the child.
Having written the initial statute and because of my mental health background I have extensive trial experience representing both relocating and non-relocating parents. Since either the granting or denial of a relocation request has such significance for the parties involved, it is imperative that he/she have a knowledgeable and skilled litigator advocating on their behalf.
- CHILD SUPPORT
Louisiana has enacted child support guidelines which the trial judge is mandated to implement. The statute has a provision which requires the legislature to review the guidelines every four years. The legislation also provides that a child support review committee should be established to assist the legislature and to make recommendations for modifications.I was appointed by the legislature in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 to be a member of the child support review committee. The committee met at least ten times each review year to obtain information and to make appropriate suggestions as to how the child support guidelines should be modified.
Consequently, because of my active involvement In this committee, I am very familiar with how the guidelines operate and the legislative history regarding any changes in the child support guidelines. Because of this experience, I believe I can provide appropriate representation to any client who seeks to either establish child support or to modify it.
- OTHER ANCILLARY DIVORCE ISSUES.
Other issues which confront a divorcing client are spousal support, use and occupancy of the family home and division of community property. I can provide knowledgeable and aggressive representation, if necessary, in these areas. Regarding community property cases in which I have been involved, I have been able to settle approximately 95% of my cases.
- DOMESTIC ABUSE CASES
Louisiana has two domestic abuse statutes. Domestic abuse includes physical or sexual abuse of a person. A party can also violate these statutes if they commit a crime against the person as defined in the Criminal Code of Louisiana. The plaintiff must prove his/her case by a preponderance of the evidence which is a much easier standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden required in a criminal proceeding.These statutes provide for serious and severe penalties if a party is found to have committed domestic abuse. The court will issue a protective order and a guilty party may only be granted supervised visitation with his children and his/her name goes into a statewide protective order registry.
It is extremely important whether you allege that you or your child has been abused or if you have been accused of abuse to hire an attorney immediately. I have tried many cases involving allegations of domestic violence and can provide aggressive, skillful representation.
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