LEGAL CORNER: At what age is a child’s input considered in custody matters?

Legal Corner- May 15, 2019

Submit your questions to Civil matters only, please.

QUESTION: I am divorced from my son’s father. I am the primary custodian. We have 3 children together. Our children visit their father every other weekend. Our oldest son is now 12. He doesn’t want to go to his father’s house anymore. He says his father yells at him and puts him down all the time. At what age is it legal for a child to say he is not going to visit his father? What would happen if I didn’t make him go?

ANSWER: There is no magical age – as when someone becomes old enough to drive – that the courts automatically begin to consider the child’s preferences when awarding custody. However, just around the age of 12 is when the judges do begin to factor in the child’s input and concerns as to a custody arrangement.

Of course, sometimes the child’s reasoning for preferring one parent’s domicile may not be recognized as grounds for a change in the arrangement – for example, if a child prefers not to go to one parent’s place because he or she “makes me do all my homework” or “has too many rules.” Additionally, some children will tell a parent they do not want to go to the other parents because it pleases that parent to hear that.

In this case, there appears to be some legitimate verbal abuse of the child, and the child’s hesitation to go is justified. However, the viewer should not change any arrangements without going to court and getting the custody order changed. She can be held in contempt if she violates the current order.

QUESTION: Do I need a fishing license to go crabbing? What about a license to fish with a cane pole does the law require that?

ANSWER: You do not need a fishing license to use a crab line, or a dip net. You only need a license if you have crab traps – which requires a basic (salt and freshwater) fishing license and a “gear” or non-commercial (meaning you do not sell the crabs) license. You are allowed up to 10 marked traps. The collapsible string traps, as opposed to the metal ones, are considered dip nets. The confusion about licensing happens when someone crabs in a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) or a wildlife refuge – they often require basic licenses to crab there, and people are in violation if they crab there with no license.

As far as the cane pole, yes, you are required to have a license but it does not have to be a basic fishing license – there is a cheaper “hook and line” license that you can purchase, which allows you to legally fish with a cane pole.

You can review the licenses and the prices at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries website:

QUESTION: What rights do adopted children as adults have in Louisiana to opening their sealed adoption records? In Tennessee, an adoptee can request the records, but in Louisiana a judge has to approve. Is this an old, outdated law?

ANSWER: No, it is a current and a common law. There are a small number of states that allow adoption records to be opened simply after the passage of time. Louisiana is not in that minority. In Louisiana, you need either: (1) consent of the birth parent, or (2) a court order.

The court order is not easily granted. The standard required to open the records is usually “extremely good cause,” such as a medical emergency. Even then, the court may release the medical history only, not the identity of the birth parent(s).

However, you can always inquire as to whether the birth parent consented to allow the records to be opened by mailing a request to:

Louisiana Adoption Voluntary Registry

P.O. Box 3318

Baton Rouge, La. 70821

Or call (225) 342-9922 to talk about the process of applying.

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