In May 2017, a bill to eliminate child support obligations for criminal defendants and convicted criminals in Louisiana initiated legal exemption of incarcerated prisoners traditionally cited to delinquent payments. A challenge to existing federal and state legislation, the proposed reform was hotly debated. Petitions to prevent child visitation for reasons of child support delinquency would be denied based on criminal legal record.
In the United States, the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of 1998 makes it a crime for a child support obligor to deny support to an owed parent for any reason, including criminal legal proceedings and incarceration (18 U.S. Code § 228). The federal Child Support Recovery Act of 1992 and Uniform Interstate Family Support Act extend those rules for purposes of collections from parents residing in outside the state jurisdiction where the child resides. Parents advocating against the bill found a resource in the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, incorporated as Louisiana law, and existing basis for custodial decisions in the state’s family law courts.
“Natural Rights” and Restrictions in Louisiana
The parent-child relationship is a “natural right” in federal and state law. The rights and responsibilities of parents are described as innate. Parental rights are evidenced to be exercised in the provision of a child’s residence, financial support, education, healthcare, and religious observance. The law allows for parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to child custody and to petition for involuntary restriction or termination of another parent’s right to visitation. Louisiana family law courts have the power to retract the rights of parents involved in legal matters if a violation of the civil or criminal law is part of the case.
Court Ordered (No-)Visitation Rights in Louisiana
Louisiana law provides that visitation is the right of a parent without primary physical custody. An exception to the general visitation rule is if a court decides “the best interests of the child” may be at risk. If a visitation schedule has not be arranged voluntarily by a child’s divorcing parents, the court will order one. In cases where a parent is seeking termination of the other parent’s child visitation rights, they must “show cause” in court. Legitimate cause for no visitation in Louisiana law stipulates that termination of a parent’s custodial rights may be decided by a court if it is evidenced that the party is in violation of criminal or civil laws.
Involuntary Termination of Custody Rights in Louisiana
Louisiana law recognizes federal child welfare guidelines as reasons for involuntary termination of child custody. Abandonment, neglect, severe abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism or drug induced incapacity of a parent(s), long-term mental illness is the basis for involuntary termination of custody rights under Louisiana family law. Felony convictions involving domestic violence are also a reason for removal of parental custody or visitation rights. Failure to meet support mandates is a reason for temporary or long-term involuntary restriction of visitation rights in Louisiana. If you are seeking prevention of the child custody or visitation rights of another parent, Louisiana law requires a court hearing.
Candice Bennatt is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Metairie, Louisiana. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.