Louisiana Divorce Laws – What You Need to Know!
When couples in Louisiana get divorced, their marital property is evenly divided. This is because Louisiana is one of the few states operating under a community property regime. This applies to all of the possessions and assets that are acquired during the marriage. However, both parties may also possess some separate property that is not considered part of the communal property of the marriage.
What Is Considered Community Property
Almost everything the couple acquires during the marriage is community property, starting with all of those lovely wedding gifts. One or both of the spouse’s wages (if both have jobs) are community property. Homes, furnishings, vehicles and property purchased during the marriage become community property, as do the debts associated with mortgages. Any interest that is earned through business ventures or investments is also property of the community in the state of Louisiana.
Even if only one spouse’s name is on the title of any cars, boats, trailers or RVs, in Louisiana, the other spouse still has a half interest in the item if it was purchased during the marriage.
What Is Considered Separate Property?
Any property a spouse brings into the marriage is considered to be separate from the community and not subject to community property divisions in the event of a divorce. Previously owned homes, property, vehicles and personal items all are held as separate property. So are gifts that are given during the marriage by one spouse to the other or by another party to only one spouse. Inheritances are considered to be separate property as well. Also included as separate property are the proceeds from personal injury settlements and judgments.
However, there are ways that separate property can become, in part at least, community property in Louisiana. If the wife inherits a sum of money after the death of her parents and fails to keep this money in a separate account of her own and instead deposits all or part of it in a joint bank account, it is considered to be commingled with the community funds and subject to laws of community property division. The same principle applies if she were to use a chunk of that money to make improvements on the family home, for instance. That portion of the commingled funds are no longer separately owned by her.
Having an ironclad prenuptial agreement in place prior to marrying carries weight with a Louisiana court, though. As long as there was nothing shady about the parties signing it, a judge is likely to honor its terms in a divorce. Courts generally will accept mutually agreed-upon property division decisions made by divorcing couples as well.
The Louisiana courts do have some leeway when determining the disposition of marital property in divorce. Three main factors to be considered are:
- Each spouse’s earning capacity
- If there are minor children, which parent will be their primary caregiver
- If one party is at fault for adultery or cruelty
In certain cases, at the judge’s discretion, the party deemed to be at fault could possible receive less of the community property. The courts also consider the needs of the party who will lose the compensation they were receiving during the marriage and whether there is great disparity in the earning capacity of the two. The physical health of either party could affect the property split, as may their ages, ability to work and whether or not they are entitled to retirement benefits.
As you can see, the divorce laws in the state can be a bit complex. When deciding whether to file for divorce in Louisiana, it is always a good idea to consult a family law attorney for guidance.