Going through a divorce is a frustrating and often unpredictable process. You don’t know what your spouse will ask for or what the courts will decide. You may feel like you have no control over your own finances and future. You may worry about the impact on your children or even on your retirement. The good news is that the outcome is at least somewhat predictable if you understand Louisiana laws about divorces.
While there’s a reason for the saying that the person who represents themselves in court has a fool for a client, that doesn’t mean that understanding state law is outside of an average citizen’s abilities. In fact, understanding what to expect from the state can help you make a more informed choice about the attorney you decide to work with during your divorce.
Louisiana is a community property state
Every state has its own rules regarding the division of property. Unless you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement in place, your assets are subject to division as community property. From the day you get married, any new assets and debts belong equally to both of you, regardless of whose name is on the paperwork or title. Unless you obtained assets using only your pre-existing separate property, which can be hard to prove in court, most everything acquired during the marriage will get split up.
The intention behind community property laws is fairness. One spouse may have made less money, but it doesn’t automatically follow that that person contributed less to the family. A spouse who works part time or chooses to stay home can provide invaluable services, including housework, child care, emotional labor and cooking. The spouse who served as the primary wage earner was able to work so much and so well because of the support at home, provided by the non-working spouse.
Debts are also considered community property
If a debt existed before your marriage, it likely remains the separate property of the individual who assumed the debt. In most other cases, debts acquired during a marriage are also subject to division during a divorce. Even if only one of you used a credit card, if purchases were for your home or lifestyle, both spouses will be held responsible for paying it. Even student loans could be considered community debts, if the intention was for the spouse in school to make more money for the family.
The courts will try to divide community debts and assets as fairly as possible. Fairly doesn’t always mean equally, depending on circumstances such as custody of your children and future earning potential. Understanding which debts and which assets will be considered community property will help you understand what you can expect from the asset division process. Once you understand what will likely get divided, you can estimate what you will likely receive or have to pay after the divorce.