Written by: Attorney R. Jerome Andries
Domicile is a term you hear often when discussing Louisiana law. You hear it in court and legal blogs every time you research a legal term. You’ve probably heard your attorney throw the word around a time or two, so what does it mean?
You domicile is basically where you live. However, it can be much trickier depending on the situation. You may be wondering if your domicile is where you currently live or where you intend to live. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, domicile can be tough to figure out on your own.
What is Domicile?
Louisiana Civil Code Article 38 defines your domicile as, “The place of his or her habitual residence…” This is for an individual and is extremely important for many legal matters including probate, divorce, taxes and other issues.
Can You Have More Than One Domicile in Louisiana?
This is where the law gets confusing and many people are confused about domicile. You can only have one domicile, even if you own multiple homes. Since domicile is the place of your habitual residence, it would be easy to determine which home you intend to be your domicile by looking at various factors.
A common example is someone who owns two homes in the state and they stay at each one periodically. Louisiana Civil Code Article 39 explains, “A natural person (you) may reside in several places but may not have more than one domicile. In the absence of habitual residence, any place of residence may be considered one’s domicile at the option of persons whose interests are affected.
In short, if you own multiple homes, the court will look to see which one is your habitual place of residence when analyzing legal issues.
What Factors Determine Domicile
This is a common question received by attorneys and it’s not entirely black and white. There are multiple factors that must be taken into account such as where you spend most of your time, where your vehicle is registered, where your spouse lives, voting records, taxes and more. However, the main question deals with intent. Where do you intend to live? Remember, domicile and residence are not the same as you can own multiple residences, but only one domicile.
When Does the Question of Domicile Come Up?
You will see domicile come up often with Louisiana successions or probate. The surviving family members will need to file the petitions in the parish of the decedent’s last domicile. This is important because if you file a succession in the wrong parish, you will have to re-file in the correct parish.
Domicile also comes up in divorces as there are rules when determining which court to file your paperwork in. You must state your domicile and your spouse’s domicile in the petition for divorce. You may also hear of domicile in tax issues.
Can Spouses Have Different Domiciles in Louisiana
They sure can. You can absolutely live in a different home than your spouse. La. Civil Code Art. 40 states that, “Spouses may have either a common domicile or separate domicile.” Many couples own homes in different parishes in Louisiana and this does not pose a problem.
Domicile of Interdict
An interdict is someone who has been deemed by a court as not able to take care of themselves or their affairs. The domicile of a full interdict is that of the curator. However, a limited interdict retains (keeps) his domicile, unless the judgment of interdiction states otherwise. La. C.C. Art. 42.
Can You Change Your Domicile?
Yes, you can establish a new domicile in Louisiana. There are a number of things you can do to ensure the State of Louisiana recognizes your new domicile and that your intent to change your domicile is apparent by your actions. Louisiana Civil Code Article 44 tell us that, “Domicile is maintained until acquisition of a new domicile. A natural person changes domicile when he moves his residence to another location with the intent to make that location his habitual residence.”
Notice the word “Intent.” You must have the intent to make this new location your domicile or place of habitual residence. It takes more than simply purchasing a home and spending time there – you must intend for it to be your main home.
What Does the Court Look at When Changing Domicile?
The court will take into account multiple factors such as tax returns, bank accounts, where you receive most of your mail, where you spend most of your time, pets, where your spouse and kids live, etc. The court will use this information to determine your intent.
Louisiana Civil Code Article 45 gives us some insight, “Proof of one’s intent to establish or change domicile depends on the circumstances. A sworn declaration of intent recorded in the parishes from which and to which he intends to move may be considered as evidence of intent.”
The code article not only states that proof of your intent to change domicile is dependent upon the circumstances, but it also gives you an easy way to prove it. Record in the parish records of the parish you are leaving and the one you are moving to that you intend to change domicile. This can be used as evidence in court.
What If I Have a Temporary Job In Another Location?
If you are like many workers and travel for work, you retain your original domicile unless you show a different intent. This is true even if you work in another location for an extended period of time. You still keep your old domicile unless you take further action to establish a new domicile.
How Can I Prove I Want a New Domicile?
There are a few things you can do that will prove your intent to establish a new domicile in a new location:
- File a sworn declaration of intent in the parish you are leaving and the one you are moving to
- Register to vote in your new parish
- Establish a checking, savings and lock box at a local bank
- Renew your driver’s license with new address
- Register your vehicle
- Change insurance agents within company
- Sign up for local organizations
- Get a library card
- Buy a home
- Buy a pet
- Join a local gym
These are all a great ways to establish your domicile in a new location.
Determining domicile is easier with the help of an attorney. They don’t have to specialize in any particular type of law as the concept of domicile spans throughout multiple areas of law.
If you need tips on choosing the right attorney in Louisiana, here’s an article that can help.
Attorney R. Jerome Andries
Louisiana Successions and Uncontested Divorces
Andries Law Firm, LLC
Disclaimer: This blog article does not intend to provide legal advice as you need to speak with an attorney to discuss your legal issue. Do not rely on this website for legal advice, it is purely for informational purposes only.