If you're just starting your divorce, one of the first things you need to learn is how your state views marital property and what that means when it comes to dividing it up when you split.
If you're a resident of Louisiana, you have the dubious distinction of living in one of the nine "community property" states.
Community property states take the viewpoint that -- regardless of each spouse's contribution toward the marital assets (or debts) -- virtually everything acquired after marriage is to be shared equally. Most of the other states use a form of equitable distribution -- a method that means that what's fair isn't always equal -- and will divide things accordingly.
Is living in a community property state good or bad for you?
It depends on your point of view. If you feel that splitting everything that's considered your marital property or your marital debt down the middle is reasonably fair, then it's a great situation. On the other hand, if you've been the "saver" in a relationship and have squirreled away $20,000 in a secret savings account while your spouse has always been a "spender" and has maxed out every credit card you have, the whole thing may feel very unfair when you have to split that savings and take responsibility for half the debt.
Keep in mind, however, that if you and your spouse can come to an agreement that you both believe is fair, the judge may very well formalize it -- even if it isn't a 50-50 split. Sometimes, to accomplish a specific goal (like keeping that $20,000), it's necessary to do a little trading.
In order to be successful at this, make a list of all your marital assets and debts and determine what your spouse wants the most -- and what you want the most. For example, if you know your spouse wants to keep the family home but would ordinarily have to sell it to give you your share of the equity, you could waive that right in order to keep your savings account.
Ultimately, the most difficult part of a divorce is dividing up the assets and debts, but a family law attorney can help you through the process as painlessly as possible.
Source: Findlaw, "Divorce and community property," accessed Aug. 18, 2017