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Understanding property division in a Louisiana divorce

One of the most important questions in a Louisiana divorce is the division of the couple's property. Many residents of Baton Rouge understand that Louisiana is a community property state, but they usually do not understand how the law would affect the division of their property if they were to begin divorce proceedings.

Louisiana divorce law mandates that property owned by the spouses be divided into two classes: community property and separate property. Separate property includes all property owned by the individual spouses before the marriage occurs. Community property includes all property acquired during the marriage, including income generated by that property and property purchased with that income.

During property division, separate property becomes the property of the spouse who owned it before the marriage. Community property must be divided equally between the spouses. The same rules of classification apply to the couple's debts. Debts incurred before the marriage are the obligation of the individual spouse who incurred the debt. Debts incurred during the marriage are joint obligations and must be subtracted from the couple's community property.

Complications arise if the couple has acquired assets that cannot be easily valued or easily liquidated. Many people operate under the misconception that each item of community property must be divided equally. The law requires only that the division of community property provide each spouse with assets that equal 50% of the value of the net community property owned by the couple. For example, if the couple acquired a uniquely valuable grand piano, the piano need not be physically divided. Instead, one spouse might receive the piano and the other spouse receives assets equal to the piano's value.

Anyone with questions about the effects of Louisiana's community property laws may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice.

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