Alimony (commonly referred to as spousal support in Louisiana) may be ordered during or after a divorce.
At its core, there are two key issues that need to be addressed: How much and for how long?
While that may sound simple, the devil’s in the details…
This guide will help you understand how spousal support is calculated, the factors a court considers, and much more.
Let’s get started.
Who is Entitled to Alimony in Louisiana?
You may be entitled to alimony in Louisiana if you don’t have the means to support yourself, and you are free from fault as a reason why your marriage was not viable.
A spouse seeking support must prove to the court that the other spouse can comfortably make such financial contributions. After the court determines a “need and ability to pay” under Louisiana law, the judge will consider whether the divorce is a no-fault or a fault divorce.
Types of Support in Louisiana
Louisiana recognizes three types of spousal support.
Interim spousal support is also called temporary alimony, a provisional allowance, or pendente lite alimony (literally translated as alimony pending litigation). These payments help spouses without sufficient current income to survive while a divorce is in progress. Temporary support is a way to maintain the lifestyle of both spouses’ living conditions to a reasonable extent.
If the spouses’ incomes together do not provide enough money to pay all expenses, the incomes are divided fairly among both spouses.
Interim spousal support ends once a divorce is finalized. In some cases, courts can order interim spousal support to continue six months after the divorce process comes to a close.
Periodic spousal support is also known as final periodic support. This is the most common type of alimony, awarded after a divorce is final.
The primary purpose of periodic support is to give a spouse time to achieve financial independence. However, a court can order one of the spouses to pay final periodic spousal support until the other spouse dies, remarries, or no longer requires financial support.
Permanent spousal support is available but rarely awarded unless a court determines that one of the spouses needs permanent support after divorce. This might be due to age, illness, or other factors that make financial independence impossible.
Awarding permanent support means the paying spouse will get spousal support until they die or the other spouse dies.
Alimony and Covenant Marriage in Louisiana
If you’re in a covenant marriage, you can still get a divorce and receive final spousal support. Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona are the only three states that offer covenant marriages.
Covenant marriages are similar to regular marriages, except they require more legal steps to ensure that the marriage will last forever. Because more steps are necessary for a covenant marriage, there are also more steps to get out of it. For instance, both parties must sign a Declaration of Intent, which states:
- Will remain husband and wife until death
- They have carefully chosen each other and have told each other everything that could lead to marital discord
- They have gone through premarital counseling together with a religious clergy member
- They will do everything they can to avoid divorce, even if that means more marital counseling down the line
A court may award a judgment of divorce for a covenant marriage, creating the possibility of alimony, under the following circumstances:
- One or both spouses committed adultery
- A spouse was a victim of domestic violence in the marriage
- One or both of the spouses physically or sexually abused the children
- The spouses have already lived apart for two years
- One or both of the spouses were addicted to drugs or alcohol, which greatly impacted the health of the marriage and the family
- One or both of the spouses received a felony conviction or a prison sentence
If any of these conditions exist, then the alimony process remains the same as it is for a regular marriage.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Louisiana
What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?
According to Louisiana law, courts may award alimony after considering the following factors:
- The incomes of each spouse
- Each party’s financial obligations, including a final Louisiana child support obligation or extra allowance
- Each party’s earning capacity
- The effect of child custody on the custodial parent’s finances
- The amount of time the receiving spouse needs to undergo appropriate education, training, or employment
- Each spouse’s health and age
- How long the marriage lasted
- The tax consequences that one or both spouses may suffer following the divorce judgment
- Whether or not one spouse or the children suffered domestic violence during the marriage
- The duration of the domestic abuse committed by the other spouse
Suppose the court determines that there was domestic violence or domestic abuse throughout the marriage. In that case, it can then order the abusive spouse to pay alimony that exceeds 30% of their annual income.
Lump sum payments are acceptable if the paying spouse doesn’t have a full-time job but instead has multiple assets. A lump sum payment is appropriate if a spouse wants reimbursement for their financial obligations towards the other spouse’s education or career throughout the marriage. In the case of reimbursement payments, the paying spouse will continue to provide this money even if the receiving spouse gets remarried.
How long does alimony last?
Temporary spousal support stops when the marriage is officially dissolved. Post-divorce spousal support stops when the receiving party is no longer in need, gets remarried, passes away, or cohabits with another person.
Parties may also agree to do lump sum alimony upon their divorce. That is a contract between both parties to have the payor pay out a specified amount of money to the other party in a single lump sum or payments in an agreed-upon period. This type of alimony ends when the terms of the agreement have been fulfilled.
Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Louisiana
Louisiana allows a spouse to ask for an initial alimony award even after the divorce decree has been entered. This must be done within three years after the decree is issued.
After an initial alimony award, support can be modified if there has been a big enough change in the circumstances of one or both parties involved. Some examples of this include an increased financial need or even a substantial change in income that shows a heightened ability to pay. However, the remarriage of the paying spouse does not count as a substantial change.
Support terminates when either spouse passes away or when the receiving spouse remarries or is considered by a judge to be living in a way that mimics marriage (cohabitating).
Enforcing Louisiana Awards
If a paying spouse stops making alimony payments on time, the receiving spouse can take legal action to remedy this situation.
The supported spouse can file a motion for enforcement with the court. The court will review the facts of the case, and if the court finds that the paying spouse violated the order, the judge may charge the spouse with contempt, which carries with it several penalties, like fines, attorney fees, and jail.
Other legal actions may also be possible, such as placing liens on bank accounts and real property, restricting a driver’s license use, or suspending professional licenses until the paying spouse brings their obligation current.
Spousal Support and Taxes
Due to recent changes in Federal laws, the payer cannot deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments under a divorce or separation instrument executed after 2018. These payments are also not included as taxable income for recipients.
The same is true of alimony paid under a divorce or separation instrument executed before 2019 and modified after 2018 if the modification expressly states that the alimony isn’t deductible to the payor spouse or included in the income of the recipient spouse.
Taxpayers paying alimony under a divorce agreement executed before 2019 can deduct those payments from taxes when the following criteria are met:
- The recipient must be a spouse or former spouse
- There must be a written divorce or separation instrument
- Alimony must be made with cash payments (such as checks and money orders)
- Maintenance does not continue after the recipient dies
- The parties must live apart, residing in different households
- The parties must file separate tax returns (they cannot file a joint return and claim the alimony deduction)
- The court-ordered payment of alimony cannot state that payments are not deductible
Louisiana Alimony FAQs
What if my ex tries to avoid paying by voluntarily quitting their job?
If the payor reduces their income on purpose in an attempt to lower the amount of alimony they are ordered to pay, the court can attribute that potential income to them, regardless of whether or not the payor is earning that potential. This is known as imputing. A judge will look at the payor’s past earning history and skills, current job market, and other related factors to determine a dollar amount that the payor should be earning.
How do child support and child custody affect alimony?
Custody of children and child support required between the divorcing parties are two factors that play a huge role in the amount and length of time of spousal support.
If the custodian of the children cannot support themselves due to the children’s ages or the need to stay home and take care of them, it will significantly impact how alimony is determined.
Does cheating have an impact on alimony?
Yes. If adultery happened during your marriage and before you filed for your divorce, that has the potential to be a major influence on whether or not you or your spouse is entitled to an alimony award.
Louisiana law is transparent, stating that supported spouses are only entitled to a support award if:
- The supported spouse NEEDS the support, and
- The supported spouse considered no-fault grounds or marital misconduct (adultery) before the filing of the divorce papers
Courts would prevent spouses from collecting any final alimony if they were found to be at fault for the divorce. So spouses who commit adultery that leads to the marriage breakdown are not eligible for support in Louisiana.
How long do I have to make a claim for spousal support?
The right to claim spousal support expires three years after the latest of the following:
- The day the judgment of divorce is signed.
- The day a judgment terminating a previous judgment of spousal support is signed, if the previous judgment was signed in an action commences either before the signing of the judgment of divorce or within three years thereafter.
- The day of the last payment is made when the spousal support obligation is initially performed by voluntary payment within those periods.