How would you like to pay your ex-husband or wife money for the rest of their life? It could happen but there is a national movement to change the way judges award alimony or spousal support. The effects of divorce on children can be seen all around us. Go online and you will see small cries of help. Children confused by the break-up of their home. Then there is the spouse; sometimes devastated by the divorce that raises the question about custody and alimony laws.
Take for instance, Deborah Leff, she is struggling with the idea of marrying her long-time boyfriend because he was ordered to pay alimony for life to his ex-wife. If he falls on hard times, she might, as his wife, have to fork out money to pay his ex-wife's alimony.
Leff is a Florida resident who is outraged by this alimony for life law. So, Leff started the Florida Women for Alimony Reform and she's not the only one. A national movement has started in a handful of states including Texas and Arkansas with ex-wives and ex-husbands demanding change in their states. For Louisiana though, family attorney Hani Dehan says there are some changes that need to be made in this state when it comes to spousal support.
"The legislature has attacked and has always said we're not going to give to the woman who is at fault, we're not going to give her any money" says Dehan.
There is an old rule in the books that for example, if you were caught cheating on your spouse and that caused the breakup of the marriage, you might not get any spousal support.
"I kind of think it is an ancient way of thinking. I think if they are in need you should be supporting someone, I don't think that fault should have anything to do with the issue" says Dehan.
Apart from that issue, Dehan says that the laws are pretty fair when it comes to divorce in Louisiana. According to Dehan, most judges will divide wealth accumulated during the marriage right down the middle and while every divorce is different, for the most part, you don't have to worry about paying alimony for the rest of your life in this state. However, you may have to pay some until your ex gets on their feet and finds a job.
"For the most part if you have a working person who can basically take care of her basic needs, she probably is not going to be getting any spousal support" says Dehan.
And when it comes to children, Dehan says that the laws have come a long way.
Dehan says "Louisiana started out with what is known as the maternal preference. We assumed in the 60's, 70's and early part of the 80's that mother is preferred over dad. There was the presumption that she can do a better job than dad can do."
Not anymore though. Dehan says that most Louisiana judges have dismissed the notion that mom is always the best parent which is why he says that in most cases, the judge will award joint custody to parents. However, parents might want to think twice if they try and move the kids out of the state and away from the other parent.
In the state of Louisiana, if you want to get a divorce and you have children, you have to be separated for at least one year before it will be granted. If there are no children, you have to wait six months.
It's within these time frames that a judge may give temporary alimony to a spouse until the divorce is final. After that, all the wealth accumulated during the marriage is split 50/50.
It all depends on how long the couple was married, how much money they made and spent together. Even if a spouse wasn't working, she may get support for a while but a judge will tell her to go to work because eventually that support from her ex-husband might come to an end.
Attorneys say that alimony for life just doesn't seem to fly in the bayou state.
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