Like most things, including the law, our state takes its own path when it comes to marriage. For divorce, Louisiana is one of only nine states that are community property states, as opposed to equitable distribution states (the other 41 states).
What does community property and equitable distribution mean?
Where this distinction happens is in the property division portion of a divorce. In that process, the court seeks to identify what property qualifies as marital and separate. In community property states, like ours, everything (both debts and assets) that qualify as marital are divided equally when the couple divorces, period. For all other states, they follow the equitable distribution system. This means that the family law judge proceeding over a divorce will seek to divide the marital property (again, both debts and assets) fairly, which may or may not mean equally.
Separate property versus marital property
Naturally, the next question is, so what is marital property? The easiest way to think of marital property is that it is everything that was acquired or earned, by either spouse, at any time during the marriage. Everything else, everything acquired before the marriage, is separate property. Now, of course, since this is a legal system and lawyers cannot make anything easy, it is not always so straight forward. Sometimes, things that were acquired during marriage can still be considered separate, like inheritance, but that can change depending on how it is used. And, sometimes, things acquired pre-marriage can become marital property, depending on how it is used or paid for during the marriage. This is where a lawyer become so important, both during the divorce process and before.
It is. And, this is often why New Orleans, Louisiana experts, along with those in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles Parishes, suggest entering into a pre-nuptial agreement prior to marriage to ensure that the couple dictates property division. And, for those that do not have one, a post-nuptial agreement can also be entered into now. Even if a couple thinks they will be together forever, planning for the worst-case scenario, just like insurance, can ensure that one’s life is not dictated by some random judge assigned to one’s case.