Divorce, Custody, Child Support

If there are no minor children of the marriage, generally the couple must stay separated for 6 months. If the couple has minor children, then the separation period is one year. However, there are some limited exceptions that may shorten the separation period.

Although adultery is an independent ground for divorce that could exempt the spouse from the separation period, it generally does not give the agrieved spouse any additional rights with regard to alimony, child support, or property division rights. However, the adulterous spouse would generally be prohibited from receiving alimony.

Child support is calculated based on the relative gross monthly income of the parents. Generally, each parent’s gross monthly income is added together, then based on the specific circumstances, various additions and deductions are applied to determine the relative shares of the parents. Generally, the non-custodial parent pays his or her share to the custodial parent.

If the house was “community property” (purchased during the marriage), then either spouse may apply to the court to be awarded the right to occupy the home pending the resolution of the divorce and property division matters. The court, in making its decision, will take a number of factors into consideration, including but not limited to the stability of the minor children of the marriage. The spouse that is not awarded use of the community home can ask that the court make the other spouse pay rent.

A spouse who is free from fault in the breakup of the marriage AND is in necessitous circumstances, may ask the court to have the other spouse, if that other spouse has the means, to pay a month amount up to a certain percentage of the paying spouse’s income.

In some circumstances, Louisiana law does provide the oppotunity for a spouse to collect a reasonable sum for financial contributions made to their other spouse’s education, training, and increased earning potential.

In order to keep your spouse from liquidating, hiding, or encumbering marital assets, one must get a court order. These orders can generally be obtained fairly quickly.

Although working things out is nearly always a good idea and more cost effective than fighting it out, in most circumstances a court order is required to make any agreement enforceable. Most judges require a personal appearance and agreement on the record, among other reason, to make sure that the spouses have not agreed under duress and in fact understand the consequences of their agreement.

A divorcing couple should never attempt to hire a single attorney to represent them in a divorce or other family law proceeding. It is unethical for an attorney to represent both spouses because he would have a conflict of interest.

Generally, property you obtained prior to your marriage remains your separate property. However, there are circumstances in which separate property can become community property and thereby divided between the spouses. For example, generally speaking, interest on separate funds belongs to the community.

Although there are numerous exceptions, generally community property is that which is acquired during the marriage. Separate property is general property that is obtained prior to the marriage, is inherited, or donated solely to one spouse.

Although you technically do not have to have an attorney also, going it alone is very ill-advised. Regardless of what your spouse says, it is the duty of your spouse’s attorney to zealously represent your spouse and obtain whatever advantage he or she can within the bounds of the law and legal ethics. Your spouse’s attorney has no duty to see that you are treated fairly. You need someone to protect your interests so that you are not taken advantage of.

Except in very narrow circumstances, child visitation rights and child support obligations are separate matters and failure to abise by a court order on one, does not necessarily relieve a court-ordered obligation for the other.

Resolving the matter out of court often is best for everyone involved. With limited exceptions, couples that are going through a divorce can agree to about anything they want, as long as it does not adversely affect their children. One way to go about this is to participate in a process called mediation. In that situation the parties hire a neutral, third-party mediator to try to help the couple narrow and resolve as many of the custody, visitation, child support, alimony (spousal support) issues as they can before court. The mediator, usually a lawyer, does not offer legal advice, but rather facilitates discussions between the parties. Either side may have their own lawyer present (or “on call”) if they like, but such is not required. Resolving matters through mediations is often less expensive for the parties than fighting it out in court, and it gives the parties more control of their future, which may otherwise be decided by a judge.

Elder Law

Elder law attorneys can provide guidance in a number of areas affecting older Americans. Do you know of a loved one or friend being taken advantage of by someone who holds a power of attorney? Is a loved one no longer able to handle his or her financial or personal affairs? Are you worried about rising health care costs and nursing home costs wiping out your life savings in the event that you or your spouse needs long-term care? Are you a wartime veteran or a spouse of one that is depleting your savings on unreimbursed medical expenses? Are you worried about out-living your savings? Do you want to ensure that you are able to leave something to your heirs despite rising health care and nursing facility costs? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you should consult with a lawyer that specializes Elder Law.

Service pension benefits are available for wartime veterans and spouses of wartime veterans. The benefits are generally tax free, and the amount of the benefit depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to income, unreimbursed medical expenses, assets, and the nature of your disability. (The VA presumes that those veterans over the age of 65 have some qualifying disability.) The amount starts at $1097 per month and increases based on dependents, whether the veteran or spouse is housebound, and whether help with ADLs (activities of daily living — e.g. dressing, feeding, transferring from bed, toiling) are needed.

Service pension benefits are available for wartime veterans and spouses of wartime veterans. The benefits are generally tax free, and the amount of the benefit depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to income, unreimbursed medical expenses, assets, and the nature of your disability. (The VA presumes that those veterans over the age of 65 have some qualifying disability.) The amount starts at $1097 per month and increases based on dependents, whether the veteran or spouse is housebound, and whether help with ADLs (activities of daily living — e.g. dressing, feeding, transferring from bed, toiling) are needed.

Louisiana long-term care costs average over $5000 per month, which is much less expensive than in most states. The average nursing home stay in Louisiana is 2-3 years. Accordingly, the average cost of care ($120,000 to $180,000) can ruin many nest eggs. Accordingly, it is vitally important that you contact a lawyer trained in Elder Law and Medicaid and long-term care planning.

No. This is one of the most common misconceptions of seniors. Although Medicare covers short-term rehabilitation, it does not cover custodial care at home or in a nursing home. Although Medicare may cover heart surgery or strokes, it does not cover chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. If you meet strict requirements, you may receive up to 100 days of Medicare coverage for skilled nursing care in a nursing home; however, there are significant co-payments that will be due. Some people have Medigap insurance policies which cover these co-payments. If you need help with activities of daily living (often referred to as “ADLs”) such as eating, bathing, toileting, or transferring in and out of bed, these are considered custodial needs and are not covered by Medicare. Accordingly, planning by an elder law attorney is critical to determine what benefits and resources may be available to cover the costs of nursing home care. (Wartime veterans may be entitled to pension benefits that would help to offset costs of care related to ADLs, home care, and assisted living. Ruston VA accredited attorney Add Goff can assist in determining what benefits to which you may be entitled.)

Although an ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure, sometimes life happens and it is too late. Elder law attorneys refer to this situation as Medicaid crisis planning or Medicaid crisis management. Depending on your monthly income and current assets, an experienced elder law attorney can often come up with a plan to obtain the resources sufficient to provide long-term care at a skilled nursing facility, while still maintain a sizable portion or all of your life savings and assets.

Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance that is designed to cover long-term care if you need it in the future. There are a number of premium-based policies that are available, but the underwriting process is often stringent. They usually require you to be in good health and to be without certain preexisting conditions. Depending on the type of policy, premiums have to be paid for life. Due to the increasing cost of health care and the fact that people are living longer, many companies are no longer offering this type of insurance. Other options include life insurance policies with long-term care riders and a few asset-based policies. The elder law attorneys at Goff and Goff consider various strategies for covering the costs of long-term care, including long-term care insurance.

Louisiana’s law is different than every other state’s laws. Increasingly, Louisiana courts are finding legal documents prepared by non-lawyers (including notaries) and out-of-state lawyers null and void – after it’s too late to do anything about it. Don’t take a chance with your family’s hard-earned life savings.

Goff and Goff does not sell insurance, annuities, or other financial “products.” Goff and Goff applies the law to your specific facts and provides you with an unbiased strategy that is best for your family.  Some  financial planners claiming to provide advice regarding Medicaid and Long-Term Care options ultimately intend to sell you an insurance policy, annuity,  or other financial “product” or investment for which they potentially will obtain large commissions in addition to their planning fees.  Not only are you paying a planning fee to non-lawyer to give you legal advice,*** but that non-lawyer has every incentive to steer you towards the sale of one of his or her financial products or insurance policies. That conflict of interest does not exist with Goff and Goff. Prudence dictates that one should get legal advice from a lawyer, not a salesman.

***Planning and implementing strategies for long-term care (Medicaid) eligibility and Veterans Pension Benefits require application of your specific facts to the numerous federal and state statutes and regulations. Planning and advice and the provision of legal documents by non-Louisiana-licensed attorneys (including notaries) constitutes the illegal unauthorized practice of law subject to civil and criminal penalties despite any fine-print disclaimer provided by the financial planner. C.f., La. R.S. 37:212 et seq.

If you are over 55 years old, you should explore elder law planning. The younger you are, the more likely you are to qualify for long-term care insurance, which when included in an elder law plan, can often be more economical in the long run and can increase your quality of life as you enter your golden years. If you are over the age of 60, then it is more important that you seek the planning and advice of an elder law attorney, as often some of your options may no longer be available.


Generally speaking, under Louisiana law, an expungement is a procedure by which a court orders the state to make certain arrest or conviction records non-public. That is, most private individuals will not be able to see the records during a background check. The records are still available to law enforcement for legitimate purposes. Certain entities are also able to have the records accessed — for example, nursing boards, medical boards, and the Louisiana Supreme Court’s Committee on Bar Admissions.

With the exception of certain provisions in plea agreements and time periods after conviction, generally an expungement is for those who have not been convicted of the crime for which they were arrested — either by winning at trial or by the prosecutor’s dismissal of the charges (sometimes even after a plea of guilty). There are some situations in which a charge is eligible to be expunged after a long period of time, despite the fact that the person was convicted.

Usually there are very few situations in which a straight guilty plea can be expunged, especially if the charge is a felony. If the sentence was deferred and the prosecution dismissed after succession completion of probation, then you are usually eligible to ask the court to enter an order to expunge your criminal records. For some crimes, the mere passage of time after a conviction will make one eligible to approach the court for an expungement. Some crimes cannot be expunged.

Under recent changes to Louisiana law, a first offender pardon can often qualify you for an expungement Louisiana charges.

Unfortunately, expungements can be expensive, due in large part to the court costs charged by the various governmental agencies involved. In most expungements, if the judge orders the records expunged, fees of $50 each must be paid to the prosecutor’s office and the local sheriff’s office, and $250 must be paid to the state. Also, some clerk’s offices charge up to $200 or more just for the filing fee. Thus, on a typical expungement, the court costs alone (not counting legal fees) can total $600. This is an extremely unfair situation. There are limited exceptions in the law to reduce the court costs, but they are difficult and require cooperation of the prosecutor.

For misdemeanor cases, the attorney’s preparation of the paperwork to file at the court house can usually be drafted in a relatively short time, assuming the paperwork is in order. However, once it hits the court house, the time for resolution varies from locale to locale. The papers are served on various agencies, and they have from 60 days to respond (the State of Louisiana has 120 days to respond until August 2015.) If there is an opposition filed, then there must be a hearing. If the agency either responds with no opposition or otherwise does not respond, then the judge may enter an order of expungement, which is again served on the various agencies.

A person may request expungement of most misdemeanors after 5 years have elapsed from the date of the successful completion of any sentence, deferred adjudication or period of probation or parole. However, an expungement can only happen once with respect to any person within a 5 year period, unless the charge is a DWI, and then it is once in 10 years. Some felonies may be expunged after a period of 10 years. There are a few exceptions, so check with a Louisiana expungement lawyer.

Felony records are more difficult to get expunged than misdemeanor offenses. A dismissal through a deferred sentence or the passage of time may qualify you for an expungement. Consult a Louisiana expungement attorney to discuss the details of the felony charges you would like expunged.

An 894 (or 893) sentence does not erase the arrest records from the state computers. There must be a separate Order of Dismissal so that the 894 or 893 goes into effect. The 894/893 order of dismissal, though it purports to dismiss the prosecution and act as an acquittal of the charges, does not expunge the charges or erase anything on the state computers. It merely sets up ones eligibility to request that the records be expunged. One still must file for an expungement. If the court erred in granting the 894 or 893 (for example it was for an ineligible charge), then the state of Louisiana may still refuse to expunge the charges.

Wills, Estates, Trusts, Successions

A will, which is a method of disposing of all or part of your property at death, may be made in one of several forms provided by Louisiana law.All wills are required to be in a certain format and must contain certain language before they are valid.In Louisiana, the simplest form is the “olographic will,” which is written, dated, and signed in your own handwriting and contain the legally required “buzzwords.” Other forms of wills do not have to be written out by you by hand, but do require witnesses and other legal formalities before they are valid.

BEWARE of internet sites purporting to draft valid wills for you. Louisiana law is different from all other states, and a will drafted “over the internet,” though valid in most states, may not at all be valid in Louisiana. You should always have a will reviewed by an attorney licensed in Louisiana before you rely on it.

Anyone over sixteen years of age and of sound mind may make a will.

No. A will may be made by one person only. But you and your spouse may make separate wills at the same time.

Yes. But you may prefer distributing your property in another matter. For example, in most cases you can leave your spouse by will more than he or she will inherit without a will.

Yes. But your property is only one-half of the total community property plus all of your separate property. Your spouse has the sole right to dispose of the other one-half of the community by a separate will. Some property, such as life insurance proceeds, do not usually pass by will. They usually pass by the terms of the contract. Additionally, in some circumstances, Louisiana law restricts your ability to leave your children out of your will.

Yes. There are a number of technical limitations which you should discuss with your lawyer before writing a will.Your children may be “forced heirs” entitled to a certain percentage of your estate regardless of what you put in your will. Also, many types of dispositions (for example, where you want to substitute another benefactor when the first one dies, are invalid and there are many restrictions on what can be done with a trust, although a trust set up in conjunction with your will can often give you more flexibility.

Sometimes probate expenses are saved by a will; sometimes not.Probating a will entails a small extra expense. But, if any administrator is needed, there are extra costs in appointing an administrator when there is no will, as opposed to appointing an executor named in the will.

For life or until it is revoked by the writer. The writer of a will may expressly revoke it. The writer could also write a later will, which in some circumstances will revoke the prior will.

In any safe place. Always let someone close to you know where you keep your will so that it can be located as soon as it is needed. Your lawyer may be willing to hold a copy of your will for you.

Lawyers usually charge for wills on a basis of time spent in preparing them.
If you own any property, you have an estate. Certainly if you own your home, even though it is heavily mortgaged, you should consider carefully whether your circumstances make it wise to write a will.
You may appoint in your will an attorney to handle your estate. If you do not appoint an attorney, your executor will choose one, if you do not appoint an executor, your survivors will choose an attorney to represent your estate. Your estate proceedings will be filed in the Court of the Parish in which you are domiciled at the time of your death.
Your lawyer or tax adviser can advise you about estate and inheritance taxes which your heirs will owe, and may be able to suggest ways to plan for the payment of the taxes and to dispose of your property in a will that will reduce the tax bite. Most people will not have to pay federal estate taxes.

In many instances there are advantages in making a will. Some of these are:

(1) Subject to certain limitations, you can dispose of your property as you see fit.

(2) You can appoint an executor and an attorney of your own choosing who will handle your estate;

(3) You can plan the distribution of your estate so as to get the maximum tax benefits.

(4) You can, in many instances, lessen the costs of settling your estate.

(5) Property that will be inherited by young people or other persons not competent to handle the property can be placed in trust for them.

(6) You can name a person to take care of your minor children if your spouse does not survive you.

You will should be kept up to date with existing conditions and your attorney should be consulted whenever a change occurs. Changes in the tax laws, in your own financial situation, and in your own personal relationships may well dictate the modifications of your will. To properly plan your estate you should always keep abreast of the changing conditions, whether personal or otherwise.

You should consult an attorney for the answers to this question. He will be in a position to advise you fully on this matter.

Planning your financial affairs is a very personal and individual matter.Each individual should decide for himself or herself the general purposes he wantsto accomplish. Only then can your advisors properly plan how to accomplish these ends.

The following are four practical steps in planning your affairs which, if approached conscientiously, will save time and facilitate sound results:

(1)  Inventory Your Assets.List in reasonable detail all your property , including debts and obligations.

(2)  List Your Relatives and those whom you wish to participate in your estate.

(3)  Decide What You Want to Accomplish.What are your objectives, and to whom you wish your assets distributed?

(4)  Then Meet With Your Lawyer and other advisors to work out the details and to prepare the necessary documents.