If you’ve made the decision to end your marriage because of infidelity, then you might be wondering how adultery fits into the equation of the divorce. Will it matter for purposes of the divorce proceedings? More specifically, will a judge be concerned about adultery when making a decision about alimony?
This article will provide an overview of alimony in Louisiana and explain the potential impact of adultery on alimony. If you have any questions after you read this article, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney for advice.
People who are going through a divorce commonly worry about alimony (technically known as “spousal support” in Louisiana). Divorcing couples have often heard horror stories about alimony from friends or the media, and they don’t necessarily understand the facts and law that a judge will use to decide the issue. If they’re worried that they can’t make ends meet, they may also be concerned about what they’ll need to tell the court to convince a judge to award or deny alimony.
Alimony is the money that one spouse (the "obligor" or paying spouse) pays to the other (the "obligee" or supported spouse) during or after a divorce. The basic purpose of alimony is to make sure that neither party is left impoverished while the divorce is pending or after it’s over. The idea is to ensure that both spouses are living as closely as possible to the standard of living they enjoyed as a married couple.
In Louisiana, judges can order “interim periodic” alimony (meaning, temporary scheduled alimony payments) that can last through, or even up to 180 days beyond, the finalization of the divorce. This temporary alimony is intended to help both spouses avoid falling into a deep financial hole while their case makes its way through the system. “Interim” alimony can only be ordered based on the supported spouse's needs, the paying spouse's ability to pay for those needs, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
Judges can also longer-term, “final periodic” alimony (meaning, scheduled alimony ordered for a set period of time after the divorce is complete) in the final divorce order.
Get more detailed information how alimony is determined and calculated in Louisiana, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, there are three basic grounds for a standard divorce:
“Covenant marriages,” which are legal marriages in which the spouses have undergone additional premarital counseling, have a different list of grounds for divorce. However, adultery is also on that list. This means that adultery affects all divorces in Louisiana in the same way.
Adultery, which legal experts generally define as a married person entering into a sexual relationship with a person who isn’t his or her legal spouse, is considered a “fault ground” (meaning, a legal justification) for divorce. “Fault” means that a “guilty spouse” has committed marital misconduct (wrongdoing) against an “innocent spouse.” In the case of adultery, the spouse who committed adultery is the guilty spouse and is at fault for purposes of the divorce. This also becomes significant when it comes to alimony.
If adultery occurred during your marriage and before you filed for divorce, that has the potential to be a major factor in deciding whether you or your spouse are entitled to a final alimony award.
Louisiana’s alimony law allows judges some leeway in deciding the amount and duration of alimony. The law is also very clear that supported spouses are only entitled to final alimony if both of the following statements are true:
Louisiana courts will prevent spouses from collecting final alimony if they were at fault for the divorce. This means that spouses who commit adultery which leads to the breakup of the marriage are not eligible for alimony in Louisiana.
If neither spouse is at fault (for example, there’s been no adultery) and one spouse is in need of support based on one spouse’s needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay, then the judge has to consider all of the following factors:
There’s one final, critical limitation on alimony in Louisiana: The judge can’t make the paying spouse pay more than one-third of his or her net income.
For self-help purposes, you can look at the Louisiana Judicial Branch homepage and the Law Library of Louisiana. You can also browse LouisianaLawHelp.org, which is a site with resources and assistance from a group of legal service providers throughout the state who are dedicated to helping low-income Louisiana residents with legal problems.
Or you can read this family law brochure prepared by the Louisiana State Bar Association.
Finally, you can read the Louisiana Laws firsthand.