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How do Louisiana's matrimonial agreements work?

Louisiana is a community property state where, with some important exceptions, property acquired during the marriage by either spouse is "marital property" that can be divided during divorce. However, spouses can enter matrimonial agreements, such as a prenuptial agreement, that can renounce, modify or depart from the state's community property rules during property division in a divorce.

These agreements may separate the spouses' property acquired throughout the marriage or specify which property will be separate or marital. For example, one spouse's salary may be classified as their separate property, while the other spouse's salary may be labeled as community property. Spouses can also agree to fixed contributions for their expenses or allocate community property by shares. Minors cannot enter matrimonial agreements without their parents' written consent unless they are emancipated. The parent with legal custody or their tutor may also grant written approval.

A court does not have to approve a matrimonial agreement executed before the couple married. However, a court must approve a matrimonial agreement executed after marriage, such as a post-nuptial agreement. Approval of these post-marital agreements must be sought through a joint petition.

The terms of these agreements must be considered valid by third parties in real estate transactions filed in the conveyance records in the parish where the real estate is located. These agreements are also effective for movable property filed in the parish where the couple is domiciled.

An agreement may not be legally valid if improperly drafted. This can lead to unintended results for one spouse or a financial disaster for another spouse when property is allocated during a divorce. Each spouse should have their own lawyer provide them with options and help negotiate and prepare these agreements.

Source: Louisiana State Bar Association, "Community property," Accessed April 2, 2018

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