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Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana Judicial Codes

Approved: 1998; Last amended: 2004


Section 1. Purpose and Interpretation. It is the purpose of this Title to encourage respect for traditional Coushatta customs and traditional non-Indian customs and to sanction the organization of family life in accordance with Coushatta customs or non-Indian customs as the individuals involved may choose, provided that the obligations toward family and community which are accepted as a fundamental principle of family life in both cultures are faithfully performed. Marriage, in accordance with Coushatta custom and the provisions of this Title, shall be encouraged by the Coushatta Court and all other tribal officials and authorities, including clan authorities. The provisions of this Title shall be interpreted in order to further these purposes.

Section 2. Previous Marriages. Marriages of Coushatta Indians consummated before the effective date of this Title, whether according to state law or Coushatta custom, are declared valid for all purpose under this Code. Marriages consummated following the effective date of this Title shall be valid only if consummated or recognized as provided in this Title.

Section 3. Jurisdiction. The Coushatta Court shall have jurisdiction over marriages and divorces made in accordance with Coushatta custom of the members of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana or members of other Tribes residing within the territorial jurisdiction of the Tribe.

Section 4. Marriage. A valid marriage may be entered into pursuant to this Title by:

a. the consent of the parties; and

b. the performance of the marriage ceremony by a Coushatta Judge, or by another member of the Tribe appointed by the Judge before a witness selected by the parties.

Section 5. Record of Coushatta Marriages. The Clerk of the Court shall maintain a register of all marriages entered into pursuant to Section 4 which shall include the names, of the parties and the witness, the date of the ceremony, and a certification by the judge that he or she performed the marriage ceremony or that it was performed under his or her authorization by a named individual member of the Tribe.

Section 6. Recognition of Marriages Under State Law. A marriage which is valid under the laws of the State of Louisiana shall be recognized as valid for all purposes by the Coushatta Tribe.

Section 7. Annulment - Grounds. A marriage under Coushatta custom may be annulled by the Coushatta Court for any of the following reasons upon application of one of the parties:

a. that the marriage lacked the consent of the party making application, or of another person legally required to consent to such party's marriage, or that such consent was obtained by force or fraud;

b. that the party making application was of unsound mind at the time of the marriage or was so incapacitated by alcohol or another drug as to incapable of giving consent; and

c. that either party was at the dine of the marriage incapable of consummating the marriage and the incapacity is continuing. If, after the termination of any of the foregoing defects, the parties shall continue to live together as husband and wife, the marriage shall not subsequently be subject to annulment because of such defect.

Section 8. Effects of Annulment. The legitimacy of children born prior to a judgment of annulment shall not be affected by the judgment. The judgment shall be conclusive only as against the parties to the action and those claiming under them.

Section 9. Grounds for Divorce. A marriage shall be dissolved by divorce in the Coushatta Court upon a formal appearance by the parties, who shall be accompanied by the person who witnessed the marriage ceremony or (if the witness is unavailable) by authorized representatives of the husband's clan and the wife's clan. In the event one party objects, a marriage may be dissolved upon the application of the other party for the following reasons:

a. adultery, which shall consist of voluntary sexual intercourse by a named person with a human of the opposite sex other than the spouse thereof;

b. cruelty, which shall consist of willfully and maliciously causing the bodily injury or grievous mental suffering of the spouse; and

c. abandonment, which shall consist of the voluntary separation from the spouse with the intent to desert (other than with the consent of the spouse) or, in the case of a husband, the willful failure to furnish the wife with the usual necessities of life.

A marriage shall not be dissolved by the Coushatta Court upon the application of one party alone where the evidence indicates that the complaining spouse has consented to the acts complained of or, with knowledge of such acts, condoned them by a course of conduct indicating forgiveness of such acts, including restoration of full marital rights. A presumption of condonation may arise from lapse of time between the acts and the commencement of a divorce proceeding.

Section 10. Counseling. Prior to ruling on an application for divorce, the Court shall counsel informally with the parties and consult with appropriate clan representatives for the purpose of offering his services to resolve their differences amicably without a divorce and shall advise them of other counseling resources available in the community. If only one party applies for the divorce, the proceedings shall be conducted in accordance with the procedures applicable to civil actions in the Coushatta Court.

Section 11. Support. Upon application therefore or in the disposition of a divorce proceeding, the Coushatta Court may order either spouse to provide for the support of the other spouse and any children in such amount and for such period as the Court may deem just depending on the financial circumstances of the parties and other relevant considerations and make such other orders with respect to the common property of the couple as are just and equitable in the circumstances. The Court shall be guided by the Coushatta custom that each homesite and campsite is the property of the wife living therein and shall enforce such rights by Court order as may be necessary.

Section 12. Child Custody. The Coushatta Court shall award the custody of a child in any proceeding in which a marriage is annulled or dissolved by divorce or if the parents are both deceased (without leaving a valid will providing for the guardianship of the child) in such manner as may best serve the interests of the child. The Court shall in all such cases consult with representatives of the clans involved and be guided in its decisions by the established customs and practices of the Coushatta Tribe and the appropriate clans. If the Court shall determine (after consultation with the clans) that neither parent is able to care responsibly for the child, the Court shall award custody to the nearest blood relative on either side which it finds to be able to care responsibly for the child. Proceedings to award custody may be reopened upon application of the parent, nearest blood relative, or either clan, or by the Court when it appears that a person to whom custody has been awarded is no longer able to care responsibly for the child.

Section 13. Adoption. The Coushatta Court shall have jurisdiction to approve the legal adoption of the children of tribal members or of the members of other tribes residing within the territory of the Tribe by responsible adult members of the Tribe or of other Indian tribes. Applications for adoption shall be made to the Court in person by the adult or adults seeking adoption, who shall bring the child before the Court. An order approving adoption shall be made by the Court only after consultation with the applicant, the child, appropriate clan representatives and such additional investigation of the circumstances as the Court may direct. The Clerk shall maintain a record of all adoptions approved by the Court.

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