Child Custody Dictionary

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Words Used in Child Custody Cases

How To Use This Dictionary

At the top of each section of this dictionary, you will see a list of commonly used words in alphabetical order. 

Words Used in Custody Cases

Acknowledgment of Paternity: a written document signed by a man before a notary public that declares the man who signed it is a child's father. 

Best Interest of the Child: the standard Louisiana judges use to decide custody cases.

Cohabitation: living together, usually as an intimate couple. 

Co-parenting: cooperative work with a child's parent toward what is best for the child.

Contempt: willful violation of a valid court order.

Consent Judgment: a judgment approved by the Court that reflects an agreement made between parties to settle the pending issues. It has the same effect as any other judgment of the Court, but it also represents a compromise between the parties. 

Considered Judgment: a judgment decided by the Court and rendered after a hearing or trial. It is based on the Court's consideration of the evidence and the law that applies to the issues the Court was asked to decide.

Custody: control over a child, including physical custody and legal custody (decision-making authority). 

Contested custody: when there is no agreement about who will have custody.

Custody evaluator: a mental health professional selected by the parties or the Court and appointed by the Court to evaluate a party or the child in a custody proceeding.  A custody evaluator prepares a report and recommendation related to custody and serves as an expert witness of the Court. 

Joint Custody: an arrangement in which a child lives primarily with one parent, the domiciliary parent, who also has decision-making authority related to the child, and the child spends specified periods of time with the non-domiciliary parent. 

Shared Custody: an arrangement in which each parent has physical custody of the child for an approximately equal amount of time.

Sole Custody: an arrangement in which one parent is awarded exclusive physical and legal custody of a child or children, sometimes subject to supervised visitation awarded to the other parent. 

Split Custody: an arrangement in which each party is the sole custodial or domiciliary parent of at least one child. 

Domiciliary parent: the parent the child lives with most of the time. The domiciliary parent usually has the authority to make all decisions related to the child.

Enforce: to use authority or force to make or to cause something to happen. In child custody, courts can make parents follow a custody order.

Family Violencephysical or sexual abuse or any other crime against a person, except negligent injuring and defamation, when committed by one parent against the other parent or any of the children.

History of Family Violence: when a Court finds that one incident of family violence has resulted in serious bodily injury or that there has been more than one incident of family violence.

Material Change in Circumstances: the law does not define this term, which a party is required to establish when seeking a change in child custody or support. In general, it is understood to mean a change in circumstances of such significance that it impacts the child's wellbeing. 

Motion to Modify Child Custody: a pleading filed with the Court that asks for a change in a custody schedule or decision making authority.

Non-domiciliary parent: the parent who is not named the domiciliary parent.

Paternity: the state of being a child's father.

Disavowal of paternity: the process by which a man challenges paternity

Legal paternity: a determination of fatherhood reached by operation of law based on the mother's marital status at the time the child was born. In Louisiana, a child can have legal paternity that is different from their biological paternity.

Presumption of paternity: a legal determination of paternity based on the mother's marital status at the time of the child's birth; particularly, when a married woman gives birth to a child, the husband of the mother is presumed to be the father of the child.

Presumption: a fact or conclusion that is accepted as true, although it is not known for sure.

RelocationRelocation means a change in the principal residence of a child for a period of sixty days or more. For more information on relocation including terms used in relocation cases, see our Relocation Guide. 

Tutorship: when a person has been appointed by a court to be legally responsible for caring for a minor child. Tutorship is usually used when a child owns property and both parents are deceased.

Visitation: physical time that a non-domiciliary parent is awarded with their child or children.

Supervised Visitation: "face-to-face contact between a parent and a child which occurs in the immediate presence of a supervising person approved by the court under conditions which prevent any physical abuse, threats, intimidation, abduction, or humiliation of either the abused parent or the child." 

Voluntary Transfer of Custody by Mandate: a document by which a parent voluntarily transfers legal custody of a child to another person. 


Words Used in Divorce Cases

Words Used in Louisiana Divorce Cases


Article 102 Divorce A divorce sought or granted based on living separate and apart as required by Louisiana Civil Code article 102.  To get an article 102 divorce, after either spouse files a petition for divorce, the spouses have to live separate and apart for either 180 or 365 days if they have minor children.  After the 180 or 365 days, either spouse can file a "Rule to Show Cause for 102 Divorce," and the Court will set a hearing.  After the hearing, if the parties meet the requirements, the Court will grant a judgment of divorce. 

Article 103 Divorce A divorce sought or granted based on the grounds listed in Louisiana Civil Code article 103. When no spouse is at fault, spouses can get an article 103(1) divorce if, at the time the petition for divorce is filed, they have already lived separate and apart for either 180 days or 365 days if they have minor children.  Article 103 also allows for divorce based on the fault of a spouse

Temporary Restraining Order A temporary restraining order is an order issued by the Court that prohibits a party from doing a certain act.  A temporary restraining order can be requested and granted without a hearing, in some circumstances. 

Fault In the context of a divorce, fault means adultery, domestic violence, or having been sentenced to hard labor after being convicted of a felony criminal offense. Read this article for more detailed information about fault-based divorce. 

Incidental Matters In a divorce case, incidental matters are other issues that the Court can address in the divorce case.  Incidental matters include "custody, visitation, or support of a minor child; support for a spouse; injunctive relief; use and occupancy of the family home or use of community movables or immovables; or use of personal property." Check out our Guide to Incidental Matters for more information.

Rule to Show Cause A Rule to Show Cause is another name for a motion in a summary proceeding.  Learn more about how to ask the Court to make a decision on incidental matters by filing a rule to show cause.

Consent Judgment A Consent Judgment is when the Court approves an agreement made between parties to settle the pending issues. It has the same effect as any other judgment of the Court, but it also represents a compromise between the parties.  

Considered Judgment A Considered Judgment is a judgment of the Court rendered after a hearing or trial. It is based on the Court's consideration of the evidence and the law that applies to the issues the Court was asked to decide. 

Former Matrimonial Domicile The house where spouses lived together as married people, once spouses have physically separated, is the former matrimonial domicile. 

Property Injunction A property injunction is another term for a temporary restraining order or a permanent restraining order that prohibits either spouse from alienating, encumbering, or disposing of community property during a divorce and until the property is partitioned. Learn more about property injunctions

Reconciliation is a defense to divorce. When used in divorce proceedings, the term reconciliation means to start living together again with the intent to remain married. A spouse must ask the Court to make a finding of fact to determine whether a reconciliation has occurred. Learn more about reconciliation

Matrimonial Regime A matrimonial regime is a system of rules that control the ownership and management of the property of married persons as between themselves and toward third persons.  A matrimonial regime can be determined by the law, by a contract, or partly by the law and partly by a contract. In Louisiana, the legal regime is "the community of acquets and gains," more commonly called a community property regime.  Unless spouses enter into a matrimonial contract, the legal regime applies to their marriage. 

Property Partition (Partition of Property) A property partition is the process used to divide the former spouses' community and separate property between each spouse.  Learn more about partition.

Community property is certain property acquired during the marriage that is classified as owned by both spouses together, or co-owned. Learn more about community property

Separate property is certain property acquired by a person, usually outside of a marriage, that is classified as owned by one spouse. Some property acquired during a marriage can be separate property. Learn more about separate property

Last Review and Update: Oct 29, 2021
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