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Divorce and Family Law - Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce & Community Property

Howard and Reed Family Law attorneys have a long and successful track record of trying and settling divorce and community property cases. Our personalized attention ensures that clients’ interests are protected throughout their child custody, child support, community property settlement and divorce proceeding.

What is a Legal Divorce?

A legal divorce is the termination of the marriage between two people.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for My Divorce?

Initiating and pursuing a divorce is almost always difficult and emotionally trying. When there are limited joint assets to be divided and no children involved, some divorces can be handled fairly quickly and amicably. However, a typical divorce case involves mutual finances, jointly owned property and children. Disagreements regarding the division and distribution of these elements creates a far more complex process. Such situations can be emotionally charged and frightening when combined with the complicated structure of the legal system. Most couples cannot divide their property and make child custody decisions on their own. They need an experienced divorce attorney to advise, protect and stand up for their best interests from the initiation of the process to the closure.

What Are Grounds for a Legal Divorce in Louisiana?

In the State of Louisiana, the main factors that substantiate grounds for divorce include:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Conviction of a felony
  • Physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse
  • Imprisonment
  • Living separate and apart for 180 days if the parties do not have any children under the age of eighteen
  • Living separate and apart for 365 days if the parties have children under the age of eighteen
  • What is the Difference Between a No Fault vs. a Fault Divorce?

    A no fault divorce can be filed when a spouses have lived apart and in separate residences for a specific amount of time before filing for divorce. In Louisiana, that time period is at least three hundred and sixty-five days if there are minor children of the marriage and one hundred eighty days if there are no minor children of the marriage.

    What is an Amicable Divorce?

    Couples and children going through a divorce are likely to experience a gamut of emotions ranging from fear, anger and resentment to sadness, hopelessness and anxiety. When possible, approaching a divorce from a solution oriented point of view rather than an emotionally driven one will make it easier on everyone involved.

    Complicated emotions, hurt feelings and conflict can cloud the judgement process and put spouses and their families at risk. An experienced divorce attorney is your ally and voice of reason during this difficult time. Your attorney can help you remain objective in order to make decisions that will ultimately be most beneficial for all.

    Will I Have to Appear in Court?

    The parties can avoid formally appearing in court by mutually agreeing upon solutions to the issues involved in their case and submitting their written agreement to the court for approval, which is called a consent judgement, in advance of hearing. Such issues include, but are not limited to spousal support, the use and occupancy of the family home and the division of community property. Additionally, if there are minor children born of the marriage, then child custody, visitation rights and child support can be addressed via consent judgement as well. However, if the parties disagree upon how to resolve the issues that arise then the case may proceed through all phases of litigation, including trial before a family court judge, or in some cases, a hearing officer or commissioner.

    What is Required to File a Divorce Petition in Louisiana?

    The State of Louisiana has a residency requirement for filing a petition for a divorce and for seeking custody of minor children. Either spouse must be a resident of the State for at least six months. The petition must be filed in a parish where either spouse lives or last lived in together.

    What is Community Property?

    The State of Louisiana is a “community property” state. Generally, all property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and will be split equally (50/50) between spouses. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule and your individual community property issues should be discussed with an attorney to help you achieve specific solutions to your community property issues.

    What Happens to the Family Home?

    Each divorce case has unique circumstances that will affect the division of property and each spouse has the legal right to ask for the family home. If there are minor children involved, the residence will most likely be awarded to the spouse who maintains custody of the couple’s child or children. The court will also take various factors into consideration when deciding which party will keep the family home including but not limited to:

  • The value of the property at issue
  • The economic situations of both spouses
  • The financial needs of both spouses and future income projections
  • The physical, financial and emotional needs of the child or children invlived
  • The contributions during the marriage that each spouse put in to securing and maintaining the residence
  • Division of community property and the marital home can be complex and frightening during the emotional process of a divorce and these are just a few of the aspects that the court will factor into their decision. You need an experienced divorce attorney at your side to ensure you get all that you deserve.

    How is Child Custody Established?

    Unless the best interest of the child requires otherwise, when spouses agree upon who is to have custody, the court will typically award custody in the manner specified. When spouses are not in agreement, or if the agreement is not deemed in the best interest of the child, the court will issue an award of joint custody. However, if there is clear and convincing evidence that custody by one parent will serve the best interest of the child, the court will award custody to that parent. When one parent is not granted either custody or joint custody, that parent is entitled to reasonable visitation rights. If in any case the court finds after a hearing that visitation would not be in the best interest of the child, that visitation right will be revoked. After joint custody is awarded, consistent visitation schedules and custodial arrangements are established that will be in the best interest of the child.

    How is Child Support Determined?

    In the case of financial child support obligations, Louisiana uses the "Income Shares" model. This model is based on the concept that a child should receive the same percentage and type of parental income it would have benefitted from if the family remained intact. However, each case is unique and financial responsibilities requirements are determined with the needs of the child and the resources of each parent in mind. Contact The Law Offices of Howard and Reed to discuss your child support needs. In order to determine the amount of child support that will be owed, the court will require each spouse to provide legitimate income statements that show gross income, adjusted gross income and documentation of current and past earnings. In some cases the court may require detailed household expenses, accounting details and other income source information. In Louisiana the child support obligation ends at age eighteen. If the child remains in high school after age eighteen, child support ends at age nineteen or graduation, whichever occurs first.

    What is Alimony/Spousal Support?

    Spousal support (sometimes referred to as alimony) can be awarded to either spouse based on a set of circumstances that includes the spouses" relative financial needs and their ability to pay. Alimony awards can be set up in different ways; they can be temporary, required until the divorce is complete, or permanent, to continue after the divorce proceedings are completed. Permanent alimony rulings usually occur when the recipient is free from fault in the marriage breakup, and not able to support him or herself. In Louisiana, when an individual is proven at fault in the breakup of the marriage, that party will not receive permanent spousal support. Permanent spousal support obligations cannot exceed one-third of the responsible spouse"s income unless the alimony support is paid in a lump sum amount. There are some advantages to lump sum payment arrangements that can be discussed with your attorney. Final monthly spousal support is required to be paid indefinitely until the recipient remarries, cohabits or the support award is terminated by the court. Changes in support detail and amount can be made only when there is a significant change in a spouse’s financial situation and ordered by the court.