Dissolving a marriage takes time, and certain legal commitments need to be in place to protect the interests of each spouse and the children. There are many decisions to make that can impact the financial and emotional stability of the parties involved. Knowing the appropriate legal steps can aid in minimizing the potential for errors or an ineffective course of action.
Many parents worry about how a divorce will affect their children. There are many layers of ending a marriage, yet some of the most important issues concern the children. How the parenting time will be divided is typically a key focal point. When parents can jointly agree on child support and custody matters, the process will likely be smoother and conducted in a more timely fashion.
Two forms of child custody are common in Louisiana divorce cases – legal and physical. Either type of custody can be sole or joint, making four custody arrangements: sole legal, sole physical, joint legal and joint physical. Legal custody allows caregivers to be a decision-maker in the important choices concerning the children, such as where dependents attend school. Physical custody refers to where the children live.
Child support is largely determined through a basic formula and enforced by the court. Even though the calculations follow specific child support guidelines, the court can increase or decrease the amounts based on the circumstances within each case. A Louisiana judge will determine support payments by using factors such as:
- The combined gross income of both parents
- The number of children in the household
- The costs for childcare, health insurance and other responsibilities
- The parenting time of each spouse
- Any current child support obligations
In New Orleans, Louisiana, along with the rest of the state, property is designated as either community or separate. Assets and debts that have accumulated during the marriage will belong to both spouses.
Division Of Property
Separate property is defined as an item that was owned prior to the marriage, was part of an inheritance or a gift. Another example of property that is separate rather than community is that protected by a prenuptial agreement. Commingled property describes a situation in which separate and community items are intertwined. In order to keep property separate, it’s necessary to prove to the court that property is not commingled.
The process to end a marriage is a highly personal one that requires accounting for the needs of the family involved. In Louisiana, some of the options available to individuals will be determined on whether the marriage is covenant or not. As alternatives to divorce, it also may be possible to legally separate or file an annulment.
A legal separation in Louisiana is only recognized for those in a covenant marriage. In many ways, being legally separated is a trial run to divorce. It is for couples not ready to dissolve the marriage. Like in a divorce, the issues of child support, visitation and alimony are resolved; however, individuals remain married. Some of the reasons spouses may explore a legal separation include:
- Religious beliefs
- Filing a joint tax return
- Health care coverage
- Military benefits
The courts in Louisiana define a marriage that was never legal in the first place as a “void” union. When an individual is already legally married to someone, for instance, the marriage was void from the start. Other situations for annulment often involve circumstances that are “voidable” and require providing the court with proof that a certain situation exists. There are a limited number of acceptable grounds for annulment in Louisiana including:
- Mental incapacity
- Mental disability
- Fraud or misrepresentation
- Underage spouse
- Close blood relation
- Inability to consummate the marriage
Annulments are not readily granted. A skilled divorce lawyer can identify the type of proof necessary for the court in order to present an effective case.
An effective way for couples to resolve divorce issues is through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The goal in this process is to reach a divorce settlement and avoid a lengthy trial process. ADR is a cost-effective option that also saves time. Louisiana courts recognize several types of ADR such as:
- A neutral third party, often a retired judge, hears both sides and then decides the outcome.
- Mediation is perhaps the most common of the ADR forms. A neutral third party works with couples to come to agreements on a divorce matters.
- Neutral evaluation. A neutral third party lets individuals know the likely outcome in the event a trial is necessary.
Some of the other benefits to ADR include maintaining more control over the process, having a wide range of potential solutions and preserving spousal relationships.
The process of ending a marriage can cause a great deal of uncertainty. When there are so many important considerations, it’s wise to obtain reliable legal advice. Whether there are questions about how to divide property in Louisiana or a concern over child custody issues, an experienced New Orleans attorney can answer all your questions and inform you on all aspects of divorce. When you have solid legal information, it becomes possible to make wise decisions for you and your family.
When the stakes are high, the attorney that is chosen can make a difference. The outcome of a divorce can impact the future for years to come. For this reason, it’s important to hire an attorney who has experience helping families in New Orleans, Louisiana, transition through divorce. Picking a lawyer focused on family law, rather than selecting a general practice attorney, is the best course to safeguard the interests of you and your family.
To begin the divorce process or learn more about the legal options available to you, fill out the care review form to speak with with a experienced local New Orleans divorce attorney.