Support in General
Temporary spousal support is awarded in Louisiana during the divorce proceedings, and ends when permanent support is either granted or denied in the final divorce decree. Support can only be granted to an innocent spouse. Louisiana courts consider several factors when calculating permanent support, including degree of need and the ability to pay. Other factors include age, health, income and earning capacity of the spouses, child custody, length of the marriage, existing financial obligations and tax consequences. An award must not exceed one third of the paying spouse's net income. If one spouse financially supported the other through school, or bypassed a career to stay at home and raise children, support is addressed as part of the marital property division rather than as an independent award. Spouses may decide support for themselves in a negotiated marital settlement agreement, and the court honors these agreements regardless of the fault of either spouse.
Louisiana allows a spouse to ask for alimony even after the divorce decree is final, as long as he or she does it within the first three years. Existing support may be modified at any time if the receiving spouse can prove a substantial change in circumstances, such as increased financial need and/or increased ability to pay. Remarriage of the paying spouse does not count as a substantial change. Support terminates altogether when either spouse dies or when the receiving spouse remarries or is held by a judge to be living as if married with another individual of either sex.
Petition for Modification
A petition for modification of support must provide information about the children, the names of the spouses, their contact information and county of residence. The body of the petition must state that the petitioning spouse wants to modify existing support. It must also state the change in circumstances justifying a modification, such as increased expenses or reduction of income. The petition must present a street address for service of the answer by the other spouse and ask the court to grant the petition. The petition must be filed with the court that issued the final decree.
Addition of support requires a petition to amend the final decree. The petition must be filed with the court that issued the original decree and must state the names of the spouses, their contact information and county of residence. It must also state the filing spouse was not at fault in the divorce. The body of the petition must state that support is needed and why. A street address must be included for service of the other spouse's answer to the petition, and then request the court grant the petition.
Proof of Need
It is up to the petitioning spouse to prove to the court that the addition or modification is justified. For modification of existing support, proof of increased need or a decline in ability to pay may include copies of bills, tax returns, financial worksheets, pay stubs and bank statements that show a worsening financial situation. Proof of an increase in ability to pay often requires subpoenaing these same documents from the paying spouse plus any receipts from the sale of property or other assets. Louisiana courts decide whether to award support after the decree is final based on the same factors used in determining permanent support during the divorce. It is up to the petitioning spouse to prove need to the court. Proof can include the same financial documents used to prove need for modification, such as copies of bills, tax returns, pay stubs, financial worksheets and bank statements.
Service and Hearing
A petition to add or modify support must be served on the other spouse, after which he has 15 days in which to file an answer. If the answer disagrees with any statements in the petition, the district court assigns the case to a hearing officer who holds a hearing. At the hearing, the petitioning spouse presents evidence in support of her petition, and the other spouse usually tries to discredit that evidence with evidence of his own. The hearing officer writes a recommendation to the court on whether to grant or deny the petition. If either spouse disagrees with the decision of the hearing officer, another hearing is held before a district court judge, who decides whether to grant or deny the petition.