Legal separation allows a husband and wife to end their relationship and live separately, while still remaining legally married. Louisiana courts can award spousal support, distribute marital property and determine child custody and visitation when spouses petition for legal separation.
Louisiana does recognize legal separation as an alternative to divorce. The state allows it because sometimes spouses want to live separately but need to remain married. This could be for tax purposes, religious reasons or for health insurance coverage needs. Additionally, legal separation provides spouses the opportunity to reconcile.
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In Louisiana, either spouse can seek spousal support. The purpose of spousal support is to provide the financially weaker spouse with basic needs. A court determines eligibility, as well as the support amount, by examining several factors, including the age and health of both spouses, the length of the marriage, each spouse’s needs, each spouse’s ability to maintain or obtain employment, each spouse’s income and which spouse has custody of the children.
Any property acquired by either spouse before the marriage, or acquired individually during the marriage, such as an inheritance, is separate property. Separate property remains the property of the sole owner. Otherwise, because Louisiana is a community property state, all marital property is divided equally between the spouses.
Louisiana prefers that parents share joint custody. This means that one parent is considered the primary custodian but that parents will cooperate in decision-making regarding the child’s care. When determining custody, the court examines the “best interest of the child” factors.
They include the child’s preference and the relationship each parent has with the child. Other factors the court looks at are whether the child has any special needs, such as physical, mental, social, emotional or educational; each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment for the child; each parent’s ability to cooperate in raising the child; each parent’s willingness to allow the child to maintain a relationship with the other; and each parent’s moral behavior, including any criminal history or any history of drug and alcohol abuse.
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According to Louisiana law, a non-custodial parent should still have “frequent and continuing contact” with the child. Maintaining such a loving relationship is in the best interests of the child. The non-custodial parent is awarded reasonable visitation, which, in Louisiana, includes alternating weekends and holidays and at least part of the summer. That parent has an absolute right to visitation unless there is any evidence of physical or sexual abuse inflicted on the child.
Louisiana courts determine child support based on both parents’ income. This means that regardless of which parent has custody, both parents are required to financially support the child. The child support amount is determined based on the parents’ total income and is apportioned based on the percentage of that total each parent earned.