New Orleans Property Division Lawyers
Helping clients in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana
At the Law Office of James A. Graham, our New Orleans property division lawyers help clients understand what property is separate, and what property is considered community property. We then explain how the property is divided between the spouses. We work to prioritize the property you want to keep. To ensure fairness, the family court may consider certain factors that favor your property interest over your spouse’s interest. Many New Orleans property division disputes can settle through negotiation or mediation, but we are ready to try your property division claim before a Judge when necessary. Call us in New Orleans for more information.
How can we help?
- What’s the difference between community property and separate property?
- How is marital property divided in New Orleans?
- What types of marital property are divided?
- What is considered separate property in a New Orleans divorce?
- How can a New Orleans property division attorney help me?
- Do you have a property division lawyer near me?
What’s the difference between community property and separate property?
Louisiana is one of nine community property states. This means that generally the property that you or your spouse acquire during your marriage will be considered the property of both spouses – no matter how the property is titled.
If you brought separate property into the marriage, you may be able to keep that property provided no substantial changes were made to the property, and you didn’t use marital funds to keep or improve the separate property.
How is marital property divided in New Orleans?
Because we are a community property state, your marital property is divided equally – 50/50 between you and your spouse. This system is supposed to promote equality, but in truth it is not always equitable.
Generally, marital property is handled in the following ways.
- Through negotiation or mediation, you get to keep certain items of property in return for waiving your right in other assets. For example, to keep the marital home, you might trade away your right in your spouse’s business or in his/her retirement benefits.
- The assets are sold, and then the proceeds are divided between you and your spouse.
- A family law Judge decides what property you can keep, and what property must be sold.
Unlike many other states, Louisiana does not have a statutory list of factors a Judge must consider when deciding how to divide the family property. Judges do have the authority to ensure that the property is divided evenly. Some of the factors that may help you keep your property include any contributions you made to your spouse’s education during the marriage and any economic misconduct by your spouse. For example, you may be entitled to more than a 50/50 share of the property if your spouse hid assets, gambled away assets, spent excessively, or took steps to devalue the assets.
The obligations to pay debts such as a home mortgage are normally 50/50 unless you can show that your spouse acted irresponsibly causing an unfair debt burden.
What types of marital property are divided?
Marital property includes the home where you and your family live, any other homes, bank accounts, cars, furniture, jewelry, tools, equipment, and many other tangible assets purchased during the marriage. Marital property/community property also includes retirement accounts, annuities, pensions, and other long-term benefits. Finally, any marital debts you have accrued will be split evenly between you and your spouse.
This last bit is critical. Say, for example, you and your spouse purchase a vehicle with marital funds. Your spouse is the primary driver of said vehicle. If you still owe money on the car when you get divorced, that debt will be equally split between you and your spouse, unless you decide otherwise.
If you or your spouse own a business or have an interest in a business, the business interest is also considered a marital asset.
What is considered separate property in a New Orleans divorce?
Any property that is truly separate (that you owned before the marriage, and the property wasn’t altered during the marriage) should be yours to keep. Separate property typically also includes any inheritances you received or items that were given to you, such as birthday presents.
If you commingle separate assets, however, they can be considered marital assets. If you were to take money out of a trust (separate) to improve your home (marital), you would not be entitled to that money when the assets are divided. This issue can have giant ramifications if separate assets are commingled for the benefit of a business, so your best move is to hire an attorney.
A quick note about retirement accounts
Retirement accounts (hopefully) grow over the course of the marriage. In Louisiana, that growth may be considered marital property, even if the retirement account is separate property. For example, say Jane enters her marriage with $10,000 in a 401k. Over the next 10 years, that 401k grows by an additional $20,000. If she gets divorced, the original $10,000 should remain her separate property, but the $20,000 can be divided equally.
This process becomes even more complicated in cases where a pension or account requires vesting – AKA, where the worker must remain at ABC Company for a set number of years before he or she owns the account outright. In these cases, you may be able to delay the division of the account until the owner is fully vested. Again, your spouse is only entitled to a portion of this account, but it can be a complex process. One of our attorneys can help.
How can a New Orleans property division attorney help me?
Every property division review begins by identifying all the property that you own and all the property your spouse owns. We have a thorough checklist to ensure every asset and every debt is carefully considered. Our New Orleans property division lawyers are skilled at forcing spouses to disclose any hidden or complex interests including property located in other states, property that may partially belong to other owners such as business partners, assets that may vest in the future such as pensions, and other assets.
Once each item of property is identified, we work with appraisers and financial experts to place a proper value on each asset and each debt. Often, your spouse will try to say an asset, such as the business, isn’t worth very much when it actually is. We do the same type of analysis for all the assets and debts – yours and your spouse’s.
Our family lawyers will then discuss your priorities – which assets you want to keep, and which assets you would be willing to relinquish. The good news is that many divorce disputes involving property division will settle. Many assets you really want you should be able to keep. Some assets your spouse will keep. Some assets will be sold, and the proceeds will be divided.
If you have a prenuptial agreement, then the terms of the prenuptial agreement will determine the assets you’ll keep.
By prioritizing the property you want, reviewing your current finances, reviewing your ability to earn a living, analyzing the true value of your assets, and through other strategies – many New Orleans property dispute cases do settle.
Some of the factors we review with you include the other parts of your family law claim. Often a negotiation to settle who gets the home, business, retirement benefits, and personal property depends on how much spousal support is being paid, whether there are children, and the amount of any child support.
Do you have a property division lawyer near me?
The Law Office of James A. Graham is located in New Orleans and serves all of South Louisiana.
For clients who are unable to travel, we can schedule phone or video conferences when needed.
Seasoned New Orleans property division lawyers on your side
At the Law Office of James A. Graham, we have a strong reputation in the community. We are known as an established family law firm who cares about our clients. You can trust that we will fight to get the fair results you seek when you are going through a divorce. Call today or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation with a divorce lawyer in New Orleans.