Family Law & Divorce FAQs in New Orleans, LA

Can I make sure my ex pays child support at the same time every month?

Q: He pays every month but it is always sporadic. He use to pay $250 every other week (he pays $500 per month) now he may pay half at one time of the month and the other half the very last day of the month or the next week. I can't budget my bills and end up broke for over 2 weeks which is very hard when you have nothing in your account but are still owed $500 and it is already April 19th. My last payment was $250 on May 30th. I just want it where he is made to pay at the same time every month. I have asked him but he really doesn't care.

A: Not receiving timely support creates a hardship for you and your children. The court can garnish his wages, and the checks would then come directly from his employer, so that could help. You may also want to look into whether you are due for a modification of your support amount. You are entitled to that every three years or anytime there is a material change in the amount of income you and he make.

How long does a father have to go without making contact at all before his rights can be terminated?

Q: It has been about 5 years since my son's father has made any attempt to call or visit or even ask about him to mutual friends or family, this obviously includes attempts to contact me. My son will be 11 in July and wants nothing to do with him and really wants to no longer have his father's last name. What can I do?!

A: I am assuming by your question that you are not looking to have another man adopt your son. If that is correct, then you don't have a legal reason to "terminate" his rights. However, if your son wants to change his last name to yours or to another name altogether, that should be doable without affecting the legal rights of his father.

Adoption?

Q: Can my fiancé adopt my son? Or do we have to be married? Bio dad is wanting to sign rights over after a year of no contact. Can he sign his rights over without an adoption happening at the moment?

A: Once you and your fiancée have married, and assuming he has been in the child's life for at least six months prior to filing for adoption, and assuming the father consents to the adoption, you will be in a good position to start the intrafamily adoption process. You and your new spouse will have to undergo state and federal background checks, and there will have to be a hearing to determine that the adoption is in the child's best interests. Generally speaking, if everyone agrees these usually go smoothly, but you will want an experienced adoption attorney to walk you through the steps. Best of luck to you and your family.

What is the quickest steps to get a divorce in a same sex marriage, when shes pregnant and refuses to divorce?

Q: We are a married same sex couple in Louisiana. Our marriage license and wedding was in MS. We have been separated for just over a year and there is plenty of proof of that. Originally separated over her cheating with my brother, which there is also proof of. I am now in a new relationship and she is pregnant for my brother. Obviously her and I are not capable of making a baby so I assumed whether she signed the papers or wanted a divorce or not that it would be granted to me. She refuses to get a divorce and claims that I'm going to legally be responsible for this child even though I did not make it with her obviously, there was never any talk about her having a baby with my brother, and have not done second parent adoption. The child is due in July of this year if that matters. There is no property, children, or belongings etc shared by us to win. the easiest, quickest, and hopefully cheapest steps to take to make this divorce possible and get it started? Do I even need a lawyer or can I just get all the paperwork and papers signed on my end and bring it to a judge? What are the chances that a judge won't grant me my divorce and will actually make me take on this child?

A: We are in a new era of the law, obviously, and the details of what we have always called paternity need to be worked out. Applying the law as it exists, any child born during your marriage or within 300 days of your divorce is considered to be a child of the marriage. In Louisiana a child can have dual parentage, because of situations like this. You will need to cut your legal ties to the child in order to ensure you do not have a legal obligation to the child. This won't be hard to do, obviously, since you cannot biologically give your wife a child. But, under Louisiana law as it presently stands, you are legally responsible for the child simply because it was born to your wife. As for the divorce, if you and she have been separated for at least a year you are entitled to a divorce. Your wife does not have to agree. It is possible to do the divorce yourself, particularly if you have a legal help desk at the courthouse where you live. You may find yourself stuck, however, if you don't have anyone to guide you. The forms you get on the internet won't help you in Louisiana, because there are affidavits that, in my experience, are not included in those forms. You can find attorneys to do these types of divorces for low flat fees, or you may be eligible for free legal services through a non profit legal provider. Best of luck to you.

Adopting my sister in law's unborn child?

Q: My sister in law wants to sign over her rights and let me and my fiancee' (her brother) adopt her unborn baby. The father is not in the picture. Sadly, he is unknown. (One drunken night situation) What paperwork do I need to have to get the process done before she gives birth in a couple of months? Will not knowing who the father is affect my fiancée and I chances of adopting this baby?

A: Congratulations on beginning this exciting chapter of your lives. Now is a great time to meet with an experienced adoption attorney and learn about the process and get some of the preliminary details taken care of, including background checks for you and your spouse, and of course dealing with the issue of the birth father and the legal father, assuming your sister in law is married to your brother. This child legally has two fathers, and while not knowing the identity of the biological dad is not an impediment to adoption, but it is an important issue that has to be dealt with. You will need someone you trust to guide you through all the required steps. Best of luck to all of you.

Can my son mother take my child out of private school during the middle of school year and refuse to let me know where he's going?

Q: Ive had my son in my custody since may of 2018 while also having him enrolled in a private school where I pay 100% of full tuition (for 8 yrs) and also any other personal expenses. His mother decided she can't financially take care of him and I can have him for the school year. She didn't contribute nothing to me or my son while he's in my care and home. The mother of my son signed him out of school without my permission on January 25, 2018 and refuse to tell me where he is. She called and said " she is sending him to public school and he's not returning to the school and she's now putting me on child support. My son has always been in private school with me paying full tuition and any other expenses dealing with school about $1000 a month since he was 2 years old. What are my rights as a father. We've dont have any court orders just verbal agreements that tuition can take the place of child support.

A: You have some things to untangle; you need a judgment of custody and child support, and it sounds like the arrangement you had all this time is no longer a workable option for Mom. That doesn't mean she can just drop in and make changes unilaterally. But, not having a court order does make that easier in the meantime. I would suggest an emergency order to put the child back in school, on the argument that he will miss valuable time waiting for this matter to be ironed out and there is no reason to upset his world just because Mom has changed her mind. You need an experienced family lawyer, and quickly. Good luck to you.

Can my fiancé adopt my daughter?

Q: I am a woman and my fiancé, who also is a woman, have talked about her legally adopting my daughter. Is that possible? Would her dad's name play a factor in this? We have talked about this for a while and she is very good with my daughter so I am considering it if it is possible. My daughter already looks at her as her mother so I would like to know if it could be legally done.

A: Once you two have married you can do an intrafamily adoption. You should contact an experienced adoption attorney to get that done, but it's not generally a problem if the father of your child has been out of the picture, meaning no contact or support payments for 6 or more months. If the father will agree to the adoption, so much the better. The process is not difficult generally, and courts favor intrafamily adoptions when the petitioners have a close and loving relationship with the child (it will be necessary for your new spouse to have been in the same household with your child for at least 6 months). Good luck and best wishes on the wedding and the adoption!

How do I write a formal letter to the judge in asking to dismiss court costs on a restraining order that he denied?

Q: I filed a restraining order against my sons father because he molested my son when he was 3....I didn't find out about the molestation until he was 9. The judge ultimately denied the restraining order because he didn't feel my son's life was in harms way and I was stuck with the $300+ court costs. I receive no child support obviously because his father was indicted on rape charges and is currently in the parish jail. I work one full time job and a part time job as well. I cannot afford to pay these fees because my son is begging me to change his last name from that of his father to my maiden name and would like to use the $300 to change his name. How would I respectively ask the judge to dismiss the costs? We live in a small parish in Louisiana so he has been the judge for my divorce, child support and will probably be the judge for the trial.

A: In some parishes you can be placed on a payment plan for outstanding court costs. I do not anticipate that the judge will let you out of your obligation to pay, but the clerk's office may be willing to take partial payments over time. If you don't pay what you owe, the court will likely not issue the name change judgment anyway. That's been my experience - that you can't go forward with a new matter until the costs of the old matter are taken care of. Writing the judge directly won't help that; in most cases, probably all cases, the judge never sees letters like that. It's not appropriate to write the Court directly; even lawyers can't do that without certain rules being followed. My advice is to pay the $300 and then move on with the name change. Good luck!

Can a protection order affect custody?

Q: My son's father has a 6 months protection order against him with supervised visitation and trauma counseling with one of his other children. With that being in place, could that affect the shared custody that he have with our son?

A: The entry of protective order makes it much more likely that your child's father will have continued restricted access to your child. The laws on this have recently changed, and they are much stronger and more punitive with regard to parents found to have committed even one act of domestic violence. You need a lawyer who is up to speed on the new changes, but if you want your son to be permanently protected you certainly have that opportunity now.

In Louisiana if your spouse filed for a divorce where would they have to file and would you be served papers?

Q: Wife left in July 2018 and is living with another man. She said she filed for divorce and it should be finalized in Dec 2018 but I was never served papers to let me know. She is now pregnant

A: While she could have filed in one of three parishes (where you live, where she lives or where you last lived together), if you were not served she would have had to have a curator appointed to locate you and notify you about the suit. If that didn't happen chances are you are not yet divorced. Even if you are divorced, you are presumed to be the father of her child and need to deal with the paternity implications. You need to speak with a family attorney right away. Good luck to you.

Do I still have grandparent rights?

Q: I have a grand daughter through my son. He hasn't seen her since she was 2 and she is now 6. She was recently adopted by her mothers now husband who she believes is her real dad. Since the adoption we have yet to get visitation with her when previously I had her at the least one weekend a month sometimes more.

A: Your question is complicated and your best option would be to sit down with an experienced family attorney and explore all the facts. There is a way for grandparents to obtain visitation in the context of an adoption, but each situation must be evaluated by it's unique facts. It's definitely an option worth exploring, though, if you have a good relationship with the child and want to contribute to her upbringing. Best of luck.

Can my minor child change her last name without the other parents permission ?

Q: She hasn't seen or heard from her father in a year .. She really wants my husband to adopt her and change her last name but I don't have a way to get in touch with her bio dad..

A: While it is unfortunate that your daughter's father has not made himself a more consistent presence in her life, it's wonderful that she can look to your husband as her father and wants to formalize that bond through adoption. In Louisiana, a court can involuntarily terminate the rights of a parent who fails to pay support or see his child. There are ways to accomplish this even if you can't locate him, but you should hire an experienced adoption attorney to navigate the process successfully. Best of luck to you and your family.

How long does a custody evaluator have to submit their report?

Q: I am in the middle of a custody battle and we opted to go through a custody evaluation. We finished paying her and finished with our appointments 3 months ago. Twice she has told me she would finish it over the weekend and submit it. Each time after she says this, and fails to do it, she won't answer her phone, texts, emails, or any type of correspondence from my lawyer or myself. There seems to be no end in sight and my lawyer told me she doesn't have a time frame in which she has to do it. I find this extremely hard to believe. Are there any sort of guidelines the evaluator must follow? My father has been diagnosed with cancer and I would like to take my child to TN to see him before he starts chemo but I can't do that until the case is concluded. Is there anything I can do?

A: Custody evaluations can take months, and there isn't a designated time line for the professionals involved to complete them. The good evaluators are exceedingly thorough and you don't want a rush job in something so important as a custody determination. Seek a compromise with your child's parent or special leave of court to take your child to see your parent. Good luck to you.

What if the man on the child's birth certificate isn't the father but has never done a dna when we go to court can I ask for one?

Q: He's abusive an I don't think it's a good idea for him to be alone with him

A: There's not really much information here to go on. Why are you going to court? If you want child support for this child and he is listed on the birth certificate, it would be the man's obligation to request the paternity test. If the man is seeking custody and you want to protect the child from him, it may be easiest to prove he's not the father. You should consult with an experienced family attorney and let him or her know all the facts and what you are trying to accomplish to get the best answers to your questions. Take care.

Can child custody be split three ways between the parents and one set of grandparents ?

Q: 3 way child custody arrangements

A: Courts have been known to give custody to grandparents in certain instances, but generally speaking if both parents are fit they determine who sees their children and when. Your question would be more easily answered with more facts. Your best bet is to consult with an experienced family attorney. Take care.

If the dad gives full custody to the mom, does he still have to pay child support?

Q: In Louisiana. Mother and Father never married. Father hasn't seen child in 2+yrs. He has not paid child support since he quit seeing the child. He wants to give full custody to the mom. No attachment, nothing. Does this mean he doesn't have to pay back child support? Will he never have to pay child support?

A: Don't confuse custody and child support; just because Father's not involved with child doesn't mean he's not responsible for child. And unless there's someone looking to adopt the child and take over responsibility for child's care, Father is on the hook. He can't sign that obligation away.

How do I know if my lawyer is working on my side?

Q: My kids were in an accident on a school bus back in April of this year. They went through three months of treatment which ended in July. my lawyer said he contacted the adjuster in July and I'
only heard from her one time and that was in late August. he told me he was going to file suit on that day and I said okay. after a month from that day I called the attorney again to get an update and he again told me that he was going to file suit because he haven't heard from her. Now its November 15 and he told me today that he filed suit on October 30. Its not a million dollar case but I dont think he is being the bulldog that he claim to be. Would you suggest getting another lawyer? would this cause a bigger delay? Should I just let the case go?

A: It's hard for a lawyer to play arm chair quarterback, and it wouldn't be fair of me to judge what's going on with your case. But, I can tell you that if you're not getting timely reports from your lawyer about what's happening, or you are unhappy with the way your attorney is communicating with you, you certainly are free to get another lawyer. I wouldn't drop the case entirely if it has merit, because your children are likely entitled to some recovery. There's no harm in checking around with other attorneys in your area to see if they're willing to take over your case. Good luck to you.

If lawyer havent finished your divorce case and asking for a 5000.00 retainer fee?

Q: divorce will be final in Mar. 2019. Property hasnt been settled. So she wants a retainer of 5000.00

A: Most family attorneys work from what is called a retainer or advance deposit. They put the money you give them into their trust account, a special account that does not gain interest for the lawyer, and from which an attorney can only take money he or she has earned or is required to pay necessary or agreed upon expenses. The amount an attorney requests as a deposit can vary from matter to matter, and generally depends on what he or she has to do for you and how many hours it will take to resolve. You mentioned your community needs to be partitioned, and partitions can take a considerable amount of time. You will also have to pay filing fees, court costs and other expenses during her representation of you, which are also paid out of the deposit you provide. As the money in the trust account is used, you should receive bills detailing what work was done and what expenses were paid out of the funds on deposit for your case. If the amount on deposit is not sufficient to cover all of the legal services fees and costs, you may be asked to replenish the amount on deposit periodically until your case is finished. Your attorney should be able to explain all of that to you; you should not feel shy about asking for clarification.

Can I adopt my "child" without the biological parents?

Q: I have cared for a child for 10 years. The biological parents know that I've been caring for her and have never attempted to contact. I would like to make sure at this point that I can continue to raise her without them trying to take her back. She is my daughter. They have been in and out of jail over the last 10 years and have a history of drug abuse. Can I do this without their consent?

A: I know that you and your "child" consider yourself bonded because of the ten years of love and support you have provided. Unfortunately, though, you have to go through the process of ending the child's legal relationship to her before you can secure that forever home and family for her. An experienced adoption attorney can guide you through the process. Good luck to you and your "daughter."

Can i move out at the age of 17 without parents consent ?

Q: it's not a good idea of me staying with my step father... he's not on drugs or anything like that.. it's just him and my mom argue a lot offten about money and there to worried about that i'm 17 without a job, trying to graduate high school but i wanna try and me home school to graduate early because i'm 17 in 10th grade and if i'd be able to do homeschooling i'd be able to get ahead and graduate early i need to start doing something with my life and if i move i'll be able to have these chances

A: I'm sorry things are not going well at home, but you need your parents' consent in order to be emancipated or move out on your own. If you are not working and behind in school, you may want to work on those goals without the burden of making yourself homeless. Reach out to your school counselor and get some help managing your situation. Good luck to you. Take care of yourself.

Can I file for Immediate Divorce If I have proof she has another man at her house?

Q: We are getting Divorced and we have 2 children I just want to make sure I can file for Immediate Divorce if I prove she has another man at her house. I do not wish to fight, I just want it to be done.

A: Louisiana law does provide for an immediate divorce in cases of adultery, but you have to have a trial to prove the physical act of adultery. Since you have children, it may make more sense to deal with custody and support issues and let the divorce occur in due course. Whatever you decide, an experienced family attorney will be your first best move. Good luck to you.

Can the non-custodial parent's family member take the child out of state on vacation for the weekend?

Q: Domiciliary parent is threatening to call the police if child is taken out of state without him and without permission.

a: I understand your predicament, but there's really not enough information in your post to allow me to answer your question. You need to let an attorney review your custody judgment and give you some advice; until then I would err on the side of caution and not move the child outside of the state for any purpose unless the domiciliary parent agrees in writing.

Can my husband adopt my daughter without interference from bio-dad?

Q: My daughter is eight years old. Her biological father is not listed on the birth certificate and has not had contact with her since she was about 11 months old. My now husband would like to adopt her--he has been in her life since she was 2. If bio-dad has never had contact, paid child support, or participated in her life in any way, how difficult would it be for my husband to adopt her?

Thank you for any and all advice.

A: You can seek a court order terminating bio-dad's legal rights involuntarily. In fact you would have to in order to make it possible for your husband to adopt. After that it's a pretty straight forward process. You should talk to an experienced adoption attorney. All the best to you and your family.

If I have a restraining order and I am having to move to another school district will my restraining order being effective?

Q: I have Domestic violence restraining order on my ex husband he can not come within 100 yards of either of me or my daughter cannot be 100 yards within the school or the house we are in right now. I have sole custody. He can not contact us through a 3rd party either. I'm being evicted and found a house in another school area same parish different school. If I transferred my child to another school will the restraining order still be in good standing? Can I keep her at the school she is at now and still live in another city how does this work.
Thanks

A: All Louisiana courts have jurisdiction over your status as a protected person with sole custody of your child. But, you may want to let authorities in your area know you are moving in and to be aware of your protected status. I don't believe you can live in one parish and go to school in another unless it's a private school, but you should talk to the school board about that.

Can I get a divorce without an attorney? I am trying to go the cheapest route possible.

Q: My husband is about to go back to jail he violated his parole by relapsing, taking my car,debit card and phone. I am done. We only been married 2 years and have no kids together. He came into this empty handed and we have purchased nothing together.

A: I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't possible to do on your own, but I will tell you I have been asked to fix more mistakes by people trying to do it themselves than I have met who successfully negotiated all of the requirements to accomplish on their own. Many of us have a low flat rate for these uncontested divorces. And if it's done right, and your husband will cooperate, it could be done rather quickly and without court appearances. Good luck to you.