LOUISIANA SPOUSAL SUPPORT
GENERAL SPOUSAL SUPPORT
In Louisiana, spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, is payment from one spouse to the other spouse who earns less income. In a divorce proceeding, the court may award interim periodic spousal support or final periodic spousal support to a party free from fault in the divorce proceeding. Spousal support is ordered for the purpose of allowing the spouse with lesser income to pay for his or her living expenses and other needs. Spousal support will not be awarded to a spouse that makes greater income or that is at fault in the marriage. The court will determine whether to award spousal support and the amount it should be based on the needs of the party with lesser income, and the ability of the party with greater income to pay.
INTERIM SPOUSAL SUPPORT
Interim spousal support is any support paid while a demand for final spousal support is pending. In determining whether or not to award interim spousal support the court will consider:
- The needs of the party with lesser income
- The ability of the party with greater income to pay support
- The standard of living of the parties during the marriage.
Interim spousal support will either terminate once a judgment awarding or denying final periodic spousal support is rendered, or one-hundred and eighty days after the judgment of divorce, whichever occurs first. If the party is able to show good reason, the court may extend interim spousal support beyond the one hundred and eighty-day limit. Any obligation for final periodic spousal support will not begin until interim spousal support has ceased.
FINAL PERIODIC SPOUSAL SUPPORT
Final period spousal support may be awarded in situations where a spouse has not been at fault for the demise of the marriage and is in need of support.
There are several factors that the court will look at to determine whether or not to award final periodic spousal support. These factors include:
- The income and the means of the parties
- The financial obligations of the parties
- The earning capacity of the parties
- The effect of child custody on a party’s earning capacity
- The time needed for the claimant to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment
- The health of the parties
- The age of the parties
- The duration of the marriage
- The tax consequences to the parties
- The existence, effect, and duration of any domestic abuse committed by the other spouse, regardless of whether the other spouse was prosecuted for the domestic violence.
If a spouse is not at fault and has been a victim of domestic abuse committed during the marriage by the other spouse, the victimized spouse shall be awarded final periodic spousal support, or a lump sum payment, at the discretion of the court. In the case of domestic violence, the sum awarded as final periodic spousal support may be more than one third of the paying spouse’s net income. If domestic abuse is not present, the sun awarded may not be more than one third of the paying spouse’s net income.
As previously mentioned, interim spousal support will either terminate once a judgment awarding or denying final periodic spousal support is rendered, or one-hundred and eighty days after the judgment of divorce, whichever occurs first. If the party is able to show good reason, the court may extend interim spousal support beyond the one hundred and eighty-day limit.
Final periodic spousal support may be terminated in an instance where it has become unnecessary. Generally, final periodic spousal support is terminated when the receiving spouse remarries, or the paying spouse dies. Final periodic spousal support may be modified or waived if the circumstances of either party have materially changed. If the paying spouse remarries, it will not constitute a change of circumstance.
EXTINGUISHING THE SPOUSAL SUPPORT OBLIGATION
Any obligation for spousal support will be extinguished when:
- The support receiving spouse remarries;
- Either party dies;
- There is a judicial determination that the support receiving spouse has cohabitated with another person in the manner of a married person.
There are no specific guidelines for spousal support. The court will look at expenses and incomes of the parties, including any already ordered payment for child support. The court has discretion in the calculation of spousal support.
Each party will need to provide the court with income statements showing their gross and adjusted gross income, along with documentation of past and present earnings. Copies of these documents will be provided to the other spouse as well. With this information, the court will make its determination of spousal support.
RETROACTIVITY OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT
In your petition for divorce, you or your attorney should include a paragraph concerning spousal support. When the court order for spousal support is granted, spousal support will be paid retroactively from the date the petition was filed, not from the date the order was granted. That means, if from the date you file your petition it takes a year to have an order rendered by the court, there is a year of spousal support you will still be compensated for.
In a situation where one spouse is at fault for the demise of the marriage, reconciliation may defeat prior grounds of fault from the marriage. Be cautious of reconciliation for the sole purpose of erasing fault and gaining eligibility for spousal support. If you think you and your spouse may reconcile, contact your attorney to be sure precautions are properly taken.
If you wish to change your last name back to your maiden name, you should include a paragraph in your divorce petition telling that to the court. When the court renders your divorce judgment, a paragraph should be included stating that you may use your maiden name. By doing so, there is legal record of your name change and this will help avoid confusion in the future.
During a divorce proceeding, the court may award a spouse a sum of money for financial contributions made during the marriage that furthered the education, training, or earning capacity of the other spouse. The reason behind this is because one spouse invested in the other spouse during the marriage with the expectation to benefit from the other spouse’s increased earning ability. Since the divorce stops the receiving of this benefit, the paying spouse may have a reimbursement claim. The sum awarded may be in addition to spousal support.
FAILURE TO PAY SPOUSAL SUPPORT
If your spouse is failing to pay spousal support, contact your attorney. Past due spousal support is the amount of the delinquency determined under a court order for support and maintenance of a spouse. The court may order any support you are due to be garnished from your spouse’s income or taken from a bank account belonging to your spouse. If your spouse frequently and repeatedly fails to pay spousal support, consult your attorney about possibly initiating a contempt action.
In addition to other legal remedies that the law allows for, you may seek collection of any past due spousal support owed to you.
If you had to initiate court proceedings in order to collect past due spousal or child support award, the court shall award compensation of attorney’s fees and costs to the prevailing party. This means that if the court finds that you are rightfully owed support, the other party will have to pay the court costs and your attorney’s fees. However, if it is determined that you are not owed support, you will be responsible for court costs as well as your attorney’s fees and likely your spouses attorney’s fees if an attorney was hired.