Louisiana is a community property jurisdiction, and Louisiana courts will divide community property pursuant to the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 12. Unmarried cohabitants are not subject to a state’s divorce laws, unless the state recognizes common law marriages or cohabitants have a valid property settlement agreement. Louisiana does not recognize common law marriages unless they were entered into in another state.
When spouses separate, state laws establish their property rights and divorce residency requirements. All states require spouses to wait a prescribed amount of time, require at least one spouse to establish domicile, require them to agree upon visitation and child support issues for minor children and require them to attempt apportioning their marital property between them.
When spouses are unable to agree upon a property division, judges will divide their property pursuant to the state’s divorce property distribution laws. Most states are common law equitable property distribution states, and judges will divide marital property equitably. However, a minority of jurisdictions are civil law community property jurisdictions, including Louisiana. In these jurisdictions, each spouse owns half of the marital property.
Most states do not recognize the rights of unmarried cohabitants. However, a few states enacted civil union or domestic partnership laws giving domestic partners rights to property after they separate. States such as California require domestic partners to register their partnership in order to receive the benefits of their state’s divorce laws. States without domestic partnership statutes will not recognize unmarried cohabitants as married spouses who are entitled to community or equitable property distributions, unless their courts recognize common law marriages. In common law jurisdictions, common law spouses have rights to marital property if they entered into valid common law marriages, according to their state’s laws.
Louisiana Divorce Laws
Louisiana does not recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. The legislature amended a Louisiana statute, which previously allowed spouses to enter into domestic partnerships. Furthermore, Louisiana law does not recognize common law marriages. However, Louisiana recognizes common law marriages that were validly created in other states. In this case, common law married spouses who can prove they entered into a valid common law marriage pursuant to their state’s laws may be able to receive the benefits of their state’s divorce laws.
Community Property Distribution
According to Louisiana’s community property laws, unmarried cohabitants cannot petition a court to divide their property pursuant to the community property statutes unless they were married at common law in another state that recognizes common law marriages. Moreover, although a few states, including California, recognize "palimony" claims between unmarried couples, Louisiana does not. Palimony claims are based on contract law, not divorce law.
Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.