Louisiana Laws on Unmarried Couples
By Marguerite Lance
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Over the past 40 years, as more and more unmarried couples have chosen to live together, many states have adjusted their domestic partnership laws so that unmarried couples who cohabit and share a domestic purpose may receive certain rights and protections; however, Louisiana is not one of those states. Louisiana has several laws relating to unmarried couples and the rights they do not have.
Because unmarried couples have not entered a marriage contract recognized by the state of Louisiana, they do not share a legal stake in property. If the relationship ends, it will be up to the couple to determine who will walk away with what property; the settlement of such property will not be determined by any of the state's legal authorities. Additionally, if one of the partners dies, the property she leaves behind will not automatically go to her partner. This includes insurance benefits and death benefits.
At one time, the rights afforded to children born out of wedlock in Louisiana were few if any; this is evolving. Currently, if an unmarried father dies, his child will not automatically inherit any of the father's property unless paternity can be established. If an unmarried couple wishes to adopt, Louisiana allows a single person to do so. Lower state courts have allowed second-parent adoptions to proceed. Thus an unmarried couple could feasibly adopt a child, though they may have to go through some extra legal steps that a married couple would be spared.
Unmarried couples are not allowed to purchase insurance benefits on each other. An individual must purchase his own benefits, including life insurance policies and homeowner's insurance. Couples can try to share automobile insurance policies, but they may find it difficult depending on the insurance company's policies. Additionally, if one partner gets medical insurance via his employment, the other partner is not entitled to any benefits under that policy.
It is feasible for an unmarried couple to leave one another property in a will. This is the best way to ensure that the wishes of both partners are carried out. Additionally, unmarried couples can assign a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to one another, which establishes each partner as the guardian for the other. The couple can then legally make health-care decisions for one another in the event that one of them cannot make his own decisions. The individuals can also each draft a living will establishing that his partner will make all decisions regarding life-prolonging procedures.
New Orleans allows citizens to file for domestic partnership. Couples are required to cohabit, live within the city or be employed by the city (one or both partners), pay a fee and file. There is a six-month waiting period. Domestic partners are expected to share living expenses. If one of the partners is a municipal worker, the other can receive insurance benefits. The partnership is considered to be terminated upon the death of either partner.
Marguerite Lance has been a professional writer for seven years and has written for museums, hospitals, non-profit agencies, governmental agencies and telecommunication companies. Her specialties include nutrition, dietetics and women's and children's health issues. Lance received a Bachelor of Arts in biological anthropology from Idaho State University.