Adultery in Louisiana - Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

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Alimony payments are a form of court-ordered spousal support after the conclusion of a marriage. While not all states agree on how alimony should be awarded, one of the largest state-by-state divides is how marital misconduct such as adultery can affect an award of alimony.

As many spouses know, cheating often has consequences. Aside from the effect of cheating on the marriage itself, cheating may affect the divorce process and any alimony awards received by the spouses. Each state varies on how exactly adultery will affect an alimony award, and so this article is intended to clarify that issue for the state of Louisiana.

The Nature of Divorce in Louisiana

Before discussing whether adultery or cheating would affect an award of alimony or spousal support, the nature of divorce in Louisiana must be examined.In Louisiana, there are five grounds (reasons) for seeking a divorce. While Louisiana does have a no-fault divorce provision, four of its grounds for divorce are fault grounds. One of those at-fault grounds is adultery.1

About Louisiana Alimony Rules

In Louisiana, alimony is commonly referred to as spousal support. Spousal support determinations are primarily made based on the financial needs of each spouse after the divorce. In determining whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support, Louisiana courts will consider several factors:

  • The income and financial means of the spouses;
  • The financial obligations and debts of the spouses;
  • Each spouses’ earning capacity;
  • Determinations relating to child custody and support;
  • The time necessary for a dependent spouse to acquire either the education or vocational skills needed to sustain himself or herself without support;
  • The age and health of the parties;
  • The duration of the marriage; and
  • The tax consequences of the parties.

Regardless of the financial determination the court makes, the court must also ensure that the spouse being asked to pay spousal support can truly afford to pay. Under Louisiana law, regardless of how much money the spouse receiving support actually needs, the total amount of support can never be more than one-third of the paying spouse’s total income. Finally, Louisiana law also provides special awards for victims of domestic abuse.2

The Effect of Adultery and Other For-Cause Grounds for Divorce on Alimony

Under Louisiana law, spousal support may be awarded only to a spouse who is free from fault.3 This means that while adultery will not increase or decrease any spousal support award, having an affair will prevent the unfaithful spouse from seeking any kind of spousal support. In determining that a party is “at fault” and committed adultery under Louisiana law, the court will require the spouse accused of adultery to prove that adultery did not occur.4 But, where the accusing spouse is unable to provide any evidence of adultery, the court will simply make a judgment based on the credibility of the spouses.5

The Verdict:

Even though adultery cannot result in an increase in spousal support, a spouses’ infidelity can make that spouse ineligible for spousal support. Louisiana’s spousal support system is designed to remedy disparate financial situations that arise after a divorce, not to punish spouses for their wrongdoing. That said, Louisiana wants to avoid rewarding spouses for their adulterous behavior, and therefore will not allow an adulterous spouse to take a single penny in spousal support.

If your spouse has been cheating on you and you plan to sue for divorce, you should consider contacting a local divorce attorney for assistance. Divorces involving adultery claims tend to be very messy lawsuits and will be very difficult to litigate on your own. Your rights can be best protected by proactively protecting your ability to succeed in your divorce litigation.

Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. La. C.C. Art. 103.
  2. La. C.C. Art. 112.
  3. La. C.C. Art. 111; La. C.C. Art. 112.
  4. See Mathews v. Mathews, 614 So. 2d 1287 (La.App. 2 Cir. 1993).
  5. Lewis v. Lewis, 446 So. 2d 995 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1984).