Spousal Support in Louisiana
Divorce is hard. As part of the process, many decisions need to be made in an articulate and informed manner as they impact the family members’ new lives. One of these crucial decisions may include spousal support or alimony.
As with any legal matter, having a licensed attorney assist and guide you with the legal issues is valuable to ensure that your rights and your family’s well-being are taken care of during the process. Our experienced attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have regarding spousal support and help you navigate the complex divorce process.
What is Spousal Support or Alimony?
Spousal support or interchangeably referred to as alimony is a legal obligation that orders one spouse to provide financial assistance to the other spouse during or after the marital separation or divorce.
This type of financial support is only available to those who were legally married and generally aimed to provide the recipient spouse’s assistance to achieve financial independence after the marriage ends.
What Are The Types of Alimony?
In Louisiana, judges can award one of the following types of spousal support: interim, periodic, or permanent support.
- An interim support is temporary support awarded during the divorce process and typically ends after the divorce is finalized. However, in limited circumstances, a judge can extend interim support for six months after the divorce. This type of support is usually based on the recipient spouse’s lifestyle during their marriage.
- The most common type of spousal support is periodic post-divorce support. This alimony is typically awarded where the lower-earning or non-earning spouse can be self-supporting but needs time and financial assistance to gain financial independence.
Typically, the court presumes that both spouses will be working or resume working after the divorce is finalized. However, in certain circumstances, one of the spouses may have lost valuable job skills or stayed home during the marriage and would have a hard time gaining employment after the divorce. In this case, the court will award periodic support until the recipient spouse transitions to financial independence.
However, it is crucial to understand that this type of spousal support is terminated if one of the spouses dies or if the recipient spouse remarries. In certain circumstances, the court can terminate alimony if the recipient spouse enters into a cohabiting “marriage-like” relationship.
- Another type of spousal support is permanent support. This type of alimony is rare and only awarded by the court if it deems that a recipient spouse needs financial help for an indefinite period after the divorce. This support is typically awarded if a recipient spouse has a disability that prevents him or her from gaining employment to support financial independence, or in cases of advanced age.
What Are The Factors in Determining Alimony?
In Louisiana, a divorcing couple can request either a no-fault or fault-based divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the couple is seeking to dissolve their marriage without accusing one of the spouses of marital misconduct. However, in a fault-based divorce, which means that one spouse commits marital misconduct, including adultery, abuse, or a felony conviction, then a filing spouse must allege and prove that the other spouse has committed marital misconduct that caused the divorce.
If the divorce is fault-based and the recipient spouse is not at fault, then the court will evaluate the factors listed below to determine the amount and duration of spousal support. However, if the recipient spouse has committed adultery or a felony during the marriage, the court can limit the spousal support award.
If the divorce is no-fault, then the recipient spouse must prove a need for financial assistance and that the supporting spouse can afford to pay at the time of the filing. The court then considers the following factors to determine the amount and duration of spousal support:
- Each of spouses’ employment and earning capacity
- Each of the spouses’ financial obligations, including potential child support
- whether each spouses’ custodial responsibilities impact earning capacity
- The length of time that the recipient spouse needs to acquire appropriate education, training, or employment to gain financial independence,
- Each of the spouses’ age, health, and medical condition
- Possible tax consequences to either spouse,
- Length of the marriage, and
- If there is a history of domestic abuse by the supporting spouse against the recipient spouse or children. It is important to note that this applies factor applies even if the supporting spouse has not been found guilty in court.
How is Spousal Support Paid?
There are two ways that spousal support is paid: periodically through an income withholding order or in a lump-sum payment.
Typically, courts order that the supporting spouse pay alimony to the recipient spouse periodically through an income withholding order. Under an income withholding order, the supporting spouse’s employer deducts support payments from the paycheck and remits them to the court. This type of payment can be bi-weekly, monthly, or semi-annual and cannot exceed 30% of the supporting spouse’s net income.
However, a court can mandate that a supporting spouse pay spousal support that exceeds 30% and in a lump-sum payment if the supporting spouse has committed domestic violence to the recipient spouse or their children during the marriage.
Other circumstances when the court can award a lump-sum payment are:
- If the supporting spouse does not have steady employment but has assets that meet the recipient spouse’s needs
- If the recipient spouse requests reimbursement and can prove their financial contributions towards the supporting spouse’s career or education during their marriage. It is crucial to note that this type of payment does not terminate upon the death of either spouse or remarriage of the recipient spouse.
Can Alimony Orders Be Amended?
Generally, yes. But only if there is a material change in circumstances.
A court can review an interim, periodic, or permanent support order if one of the parties can prove a material change in their circumstances since the last time the spousal support has been ordered.
A material change pertains to a substantial decrease or increase in the supporting spouse’s ability to pay the alimony order or the supported spouse’s needs. A material change usually covers loss of job or demotion in their employment through no fault of their own, or reasonable efforts to gain employment or means to support ones’ self.
Under this process, the judge will evaluate the spousal support ordered to ensure that it is fair and appropriate for both spouses. If the judge determines that the change in circumstances is substantial, it can increase, decrease, or even terminate the spousal support.
Contemplating or going through a divorce is both emotionally and mentally challenging. If you need guidance and assistance navigating through the divorce process, especially the issue of spousal support, please feel free to give us a call (225) 963-9638 or you can go to our website at www.messerfirm.com to arrange for a consultation.
We regularly handle divorce, child custody, child support, and other family law cases in the following parishes: Ascension Parish, Assumption Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, East Feliciana Parish, Iberville Parish, Livingston Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, St. James Parish, St. Helena Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, West Feliciana Parish.
We regularly handle divorce, child custody, child support, and other family law cases in the following cities: Baton Rouge, Clinton, Convent, Denham Springs, Donaldsonville, Gonzales, Greensburg, Livingston, Napoleonville, New Roads, Plaquemine, Port Allen, St. Francisville.