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What assets are separate property in a Louisiana divorce?

No matter where you live, the end of a marriage requires spouses to divide property. How you go about the process determines the shape of your financial future. For many Baton Rouge couples, it is better to negotiate a property settlement than to have a judge make decisions for you.

Property division follows Louisiana community property laws. Any assets and liabilities that are not considered separate property become marital property, which is equally divided. Before you can determine how to divide a marital estate, you must understand the difference between separate and marital property.

For the most part, separate property is made up of the assets and debt you brought with you into a marriage. Additionally, some assets acquired during marriage like inheritances, jury awards and gifts also remain separate, provided these solo assets aren't "commingled" with marital property. An example of commingling might be using inheritance money for a down payment for or improvements to a home – the funds become mixed with a jointly-titled asset.

Since we're on the subject, marital homes are often a significant bone of contention during divorce. Many spouses have a strong emotional attachment to homes, particularly when a divorce involves children. An attorney can help a spouse step back and examine the future financial impact of keeping, maintaining and paying taxes for a marital home on a single income.

Property division can become complicated with assets like retirement funds and small businesses. It is understandable that spouses want to keep investments they've nurtured through their adult lives. Louisiana family law courts must abide by the 50-50 split rules, but a property settlement created by you and an ex doesn't have to follow those guidelines, as long as the agreement is fair.

Property division can be one of the most disputed parts of divorce. Legal advice can be invaluable to help you set a course for the financial future.

Source: FindLaw, "Sample Form: Property Settlement Agreement" Nov. 12, 2014

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