Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Louisiana

Learn about Louisiana's eligibility requirements for spousal support, how judges decide the amount and duration of support payments, and how to change or end alimony later.

By , Retired Judge

Alimony (called "spousal support" in Louisiana law) is intended to provide financial assistance for a spouse who may need it during the divorce process and possibly for a time after the final divorce. If you or your spouse is (or will be) requesting alimony as part of the process of filing for divorce in Louisiana, you should understand how it works and how judges make alimony decisions, even if you hope to reach an agreement on the issue).

Types of Alimony in Louisiana

There are basically two types of alimony in Louisiana:

  • interim spousal support during the divorce proceeding and for a limited amount of time after the final divorce judgment, and
  • final periodic support.

Be aware that the amount of interim spousal support might not be the same as the award for final periodic support. In fact, getting interim spousal support doesn't guarantee any final periodic support. The judge will make separate decisions on both issues based on the rules in Louisiana law, discussed below.

How Do Judges Determine Alimony in Louisiana?

Unlike with child support, there's no formula in Louisiana for calculating spousal support. Instead, judges must use their best judgment, based on the facts of each particular case. However, Louisiana law does lay out certain factors that judges must consider when they're deciding whether to award spousal support and, if so, how much the payments should be and how long they should last. The factors and eligibility requirements are different for interim support and final periodic spousal support.

Determining Interim Spousal Support

If a spouse files a motion (written legal request) with the court seeking interim spousal support, the judge will make a decision on that request based on:

  • the requesting spouse's needs
  • the other spouse's ability to pay support
  • any interim or final child support obligation, and
  • the couple's standard of living during the marriage.

(La. Civ. Code art. 113(A) (2023).)

Eligibility for Final Periodic Spousal Support

In order to be eligible to receive final periodic spousal support in Louisiana, you must show that:

  • you were not "at fault" before the divorce petition was filed
  • you need the support, and
  • your spouse has the ability to pay it.

(La. Civ. Code art. 112(A) (2023).)

The statute doesn't explain what being "at fault" means. Louisiana courts have found that spouses requesting alimony don't need to be completely blameless, but they may not receive it if they've engaged in serious misconduct that contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. The types of misconduct that will disqualify a spouse from receiving alimony aren't limited to the fault-based grounds for divorce under current Louisiana law, such as adultery, domestic violence, and a felony conviction. (Thomas v. Thomas, 238 So.3d 515 (La. Ct. App. 2018).)

Also, Louisiana law presumes that a spouse is entitled to alimony if the other spouse:

  • has committed adultery
  • has physically or sexually abused the requesting spouse or either spouse's child, or has been the subject of a domestic abuse protective order issued after a hearing, or
  • has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor for a felony conviction.

When a requesting spouse is entitled to this presumption, the other spouse will have to present evidence to convince the judge that alimony is not appropriate in the case. (La. Civ. Code art. 112(C) (2023).)

How Louisiana Judges Decide the Amount and Duration of Alimony

If the requesting spouse has met the initial eligibility requirements, the judge must then consider the following factors to decide the amount and duration of final periodic spousal support:

  • the spouses' income and assets, including the liquidity of their assets the extent to which they can be converted to cash)
  • the spouses' financial obligations, including any obligation to pay interim or final child support
  • the spouses' earning capacity, including the effect of the child custody arrangements on that capacity
  • how much time the requesting spouse needs to gain appropriate education, training, or employment
  • both spouses' age and health
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • the tax consequences of alimony (more on that beow), and
  • whether the paying spouse committed domestic abuse against the receiving spouse or either spouse's child, and if so, how long the abuse lasted and what effects it had.

In most cases, Louisiana law limits the amount of final periodic spousal support to no more than one-third of the paying spouse's net income. However, a judge may award support over that limit when the paying spouse was guilty of domestic abuse. (La. Civ. Code art. 112(C), (D) (2023).)

Who Pays Alimony?

Either spouse may request alimony, regardless of gender. The judge will decide whether to grant that request based on the requirements discussed above.

Reimbursement for Contribution to Spouse's Earning Power

Louisiana allows judges to award one spouse reimbursement for contributions to the other spouse's education and training that led to an increase in earning power, but only to the extent that the couple didn't benefit from that increased earning power during the marriage. This type of award is separate from any spousal support award or the property division in the divorce. (La. Civ. Code art. 121 (2023).)

Judges typically award this reimbursement in cases where one spouse worked while the other attended school, and the couple divorced shortly after the other spouse got a professional degree or license.

How Long Does Alimony Last in Louisiana?

Unlike temporary alimony in most states—which must end as soon as the divorce is final—interim spousal support in Louisiana doesn't automatically terminate until 180 days after the final divorce judgment. Even then, the judge may extend the support if there's a good reason for doing so. (La. Civ. Code art. 113(B) (2023).)

Any spousal support—whether interim or final—automatically ends when any of the following events happens:

  • either spouse dies
  • the supported spouse remarries, or
  • the judge finds that the supported spouse is living with a partner in a marriage-type relationship.

(La. Civ. Code art. 115 (2023).)

Otherwise, the order for final periodic spousal support will state when the obligation ends, based on the judge's decision about the appropriate duration of the payments after considering the circumstances (as discussed above).

How to Modify Alimony in Louisiana

Either spouse may file a motion with the court to request a modification or termination of the current alimony order. But in order to succeed, a requesting spouse prove that:

  • since the existing order was issued, there's been a material change of circumstances, meaning that the change affects the need for support or the ability to pay, or
  • alimony is no longer necessary.

The paying spouse's remarriage will not qualify as a material change of circumstances. (La. Civ. Code art. 114 (2023); Williams Wife of Poore v. Poore, 55 So. 3d 953 (La. Ct. App. 2011).)

Unless you and your spouse have an agreement about the proposed changes, alimony modification proceedings usually involve complicated legal issues that are best handled by an experienced family law attorney.

Taxes and Alimony

If your divorce was final before 2019, the paying spouse may continue to deduct alimony payments for purposes of federal income taxes, and the receiving spouse must report those payments as income. However, for all couples who divorced after 2018, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated any tax deduction or income reporting requirements for alimony. That means the Internal Revenue Service won't count these payments as income for the recipient, and the paying spouse won't get the deduction.

Alimony Agreements, Mediation, and Legal Help

As with all other issues in your divorce, you and your spouse always have the option of reaching a agreement that addresses whether one of you will pay alimony and, if so, how much the payments will be, and how long they will last.

If you're having trouble agreeing about any divorce issues, divorce mediation might help you resolve your differences. And if you're hesitant about negotiating a compromise, it may help to know that going to trial increases the cost of divorce exponentially. Also, if you have a complete marital settlement agreement before you file your divorce papers, you can take advantage of all the cost- and time-saving benefits of an uncontested divorce in Louisiana.

But if you haven't been able to reach an agreement even after mediation, you will probably need an experienced family law attorney to protect your interests and help you navigate your divorce. Here are some tips on meeting with potential lawyers and questions you should ask.