Marriage can be a bumpy ride sometimes, and when it seems your relationship can’t weather the storm, it may be time to jump ship. However, jumping in haste is not an option. You must be cautious to ensure you have a better life after leaving your spouse.
I have created this guide to help you leave your marital sorrows behind without hassle.
Divorce in Louisiana Summary
Here is a brief breakdown of everything you need to know to get a divorce in Louisiana.
Divorce Petition Requirements
The primary requirement for a Louisiana divorce is residency. Louisiana divorce laws require the spouse seeking a divorce or both spouses to have been domiciled in the state for not less than six months before filing the divorce.
To get divorced in Louisiana, the court must decide that the marriage is beyond saving. Other factors that could affect the dissolution of a marriage include the mental state of one of the parties and domestic violence.
How to File A Divorce in Louisiana
The first step is to file a divorce petition in the court where the marital home was located before separation.
Once you have filed your divorce petition at the courthouse, the next step is to send copies of the paperwork to your spouse. This notifies them of your action and enables them to respond to the petition.
You may do this yourself or send the divorce papers to your spouse through the court sheriff or certified mail.
If your spouse has filed a divorce petition, you must file a response within 21 days. Otherwise, the court will assume you admit to the claims in the petition.
If you have no problems with the divorce petition, you may acknowledge the service of (receiving) the court papers and send them back to the court.
During the court appearances, you may seek the judge’s permission to explore an out of court settlement.
If you and your spouse reach an out of court settlement, the divorce settlement agreement must be filed with the court clerk because it will form part of the divorce judgment.
The divorce order only becomes final after the 30-day appeal window. If your spouse does not appeal the court’s decision during this period, the divorce judgment is final and binding on both of you.
Once the order becomes final, your spouse can no longer appeal the decision. However, they may ask the court to review custody and spousal support payments even after the final judgment.
This completes the divorce process in Louisiana.
Requirements for Filing a Divorce Petition in Louisiana
The primary requirement for a Louisiana divorce is residency. Louisiana divorce laws require the spouse seeking a divorce or both spouses to have been domiciled in the state for not less than six months before filing the divorce. You qualify as being domiciled in Louisiana if you or your spouse have lived and maintained a residence in the state for six months or more before filing for divorce.
In addition to being domiciled in Louisiana, you may only file your divorce in the parish where you or your spouse live. If you and your spouse are separated, you may file the divorce in the parish where your marital home was located before you separated.
The Louisiana Divorce Process
The Louisiana divorce process is generally the same regardless of the type of divorce you seek. However, there are slight differences, such as filing a marital settlement agreement or a waiver and acceptance of service if the divorce is uncontested.
Louisiana divorces may be brought under Article 102 or Article 103 of the Louisiana Civil Code. An Article 102 divorce allows you to file your divorce petition even if you and your spouse have not lived separate and apart for the required period. In contrast, Article 103 allows you to leave your spouse on fault-based grounds or after living separately and apart for 180 days (if you have no minor children) or 365 days (if you have minor children).
This section walks you through the Louisiana divorce procedure, from filing to service of the divorce papers, court hearings, and finally, the divorce decree. If this procedure is overwhelming for you, you should consider hiring an online divorce service to help you navigate the process.
Step 1: Filing your divorce petition
The divorce petition is a document that notifies the court that either you or your spouse are no longer interested in the marriage. The petition usually includes your name, where you got married, the ground(s) for the divorce, and other related matters. You may file your divorce petition in the parish where you or your spouse live or where you both lived together while married.
You may also attach a copy of your marriage certificate to the divorce petition as proof of the marriage. If you’re filing for an uncontested divorce, you must file a marital settlement agreement. This document contains mutual decisions about marital property, child custody, and support payments.
At this stage, you may also file for an interim order restraining your spouse from doing certain things. The court may grant your application if the judge believes the order is necessary in the circumstances of the divorce.
You must also pay the court filing fees to proceed with your divorce. If you can’t afford the fees, you may apply to the court for a waiver or have the fees charged to your entitlements at the end of your divorce.
Step 2: Serving your spouse
Once you have filed your divorce petition at the courthouse, the next step is to send copies of the paperwork to your spouse. This notifies them of your action and enables them to respond to the petition.
You may do this yourself or send the divorce papers to your spouse through the court sheriff or certified mail. If you and your spouse are filing for an uncontested divorce, your spouse must file an Acceptance of Service and Waiver of Citation to skip this process.
Step 3: Contesting a Louisiana divorce
If your spouse has filed a divorce petition, you must file a response within 21 days. Otherwise, the court will assume you admit to the claims in the petition. If you have no problems with the divorce petition, you may acknowledge the service of (receiving) the court papers and send them back to the court.
However, if the petition contains unfavorable facts or claims, you may contest them in your answer. You may also bring new facts to the court’s notice, especially if your spouse is also responsible for the grounds they raised in the divorce petition.
While filing an answer is not necessary, you may choose to respond to the divorce petition under the following circumstances:
- It alleges some fault grounds against you
- It asks the court to decide some incidental matters to the divorce, such as child custody, alimony, and property division
- It is silent on matters incidental to the divorce, as any orders made after the divorce judgment is given may be backdated and cause unforeseen liability
Step 4: The court hearing
At this stage, the court steps in to resolve any disputes you and your spouse may have. Each spouse will state their claims, and a judge may ask you some questions to resolve the dispute.
During the court appearances, you may seek the judge’s permission to explore an out of court settlement. If you and your spouse reach an out of court settlement, the divorce settlement agreement must be filed with the court clerk because it will form part of the divorce judgment.
Step 5: The divorce judgment
This is the final stage of your divorce process and relieves you of all marital vows and obligations to your spouse. The divorce order covers all aspects of your divorce and makes binding pronouncements on matters such as child custody, spousal support, property division, and child support.
The divorce order only becomes final after the 30-day appeal window. If your spouse does not appeal the court’s decision during this period, the divorce judgment is final and binding on both of you. Once the order becomes final, your spouse can no longer appeal the decision. However, they may ask the court to review custody and spousal support payments even after the final judgment.
If you need help with your divorce . . .
You may consult an online divorce service to reduce your burden of paperwork and procedures. I have ranked the best online divorce services to help you find one that is competent and reliable.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get a divorce in Louisiana?
This depends on your type of divorce. However, the earliest you can get a divorce order in Louisiana is 20 days after serving your spouse the divorce papers. Louisiana law does not require a waiting period to obtain a divorce order, allowing you to close that chapter of your life as soon as possible.
If your spouse objects to the divorce, it may go to trial and the timeline could be longer. In such cases, the divorce process may last several months or longer, depending on the circumstances.
What are the different types of divorce in Louisiana?
The two types of divorces in Louisiana are contested divorce and uncontested divorce. In a contested divorce, you and your spouse disagree over the decision to end your marriage or one or more issues related to the divorce. This may include child custody arrangements, spousal support, or property sharing.
An uncontested divorce occurs when you and your spouse mutually decide to part ways. In this case, you must file a joint petition and a divorce settlement agreement containing your negotiated terms. The terms in the settlement agreement are then approved by the judge and incorporated as part of the divorce judgment.
However, if you can’t agree with your spouse on one or more aspects of the divorce, you may seek mediation to help you out. Otherwise, the matter will go to trial, and the judge will make final pronouncements on the dispute.
Do I need an attorney to get a divorce in Louisiana?
No, you don’t need to hire an attorney to get a divorce in Louisiana. If you and your spouse agree to leave your marriage, you can do so without the services of a lawyer. If you decide you need legal assistance but you don’t want the hassle of hiring an attorney, there are several online services ready to assist you with the filing process.
However, if your spouse disagrees with your desire to leave the marriage, and you are likely to disagree on divorce terms like property division, spousal support, and child custody, you really should get a lawyer to represent you.
Who gets child custody in a Louisiana divorce?
Louisiana law emphasizes the child’s best preference in any divorce involving disputes over child custody. Divorcing couples are generally free to make custody arrangements, but the court may take over if such independent arrangements are impossible.
In cases where the court has to determine disputes on child custody, the judge will consider the following factors:
- The relationship between each spouse and the children
- The mental and physical well-being of each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide for the child’s needs
- The moral standards of each parent
- The reasonable preference of the child
- The willingness of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
Louisiana courts usually award joint custody. This arrangement usually involves some combination of physical custody (whom the child lives with) and legal custody (the right to make important life decisions for the child).
However, the court may award sole custody to one parent in the following cases:
- A history of violence
- Drug or substance addiction
- A history of neglect, child abuse, or sexual abuse
Where any of these factors are proved, the court will award child custody to a sole parent and consider the other parent unfit for parental duties. The court may also restrict the other parent’s visitation rights and parenting time if the ground for awarding sole custody is child or sexual abuse.
Finally, the court may grant child custody to a third party, such as a relative or family member. The court makes this order where neither you nor your spouse is fit to offer basic parental care to the child. Such a third party may be one with whom the child has a close connection or has lived for some time before the divorce.
Do I have to prove separation to get a divorce in Louisiana?
No, you don’t have to prove separation to get a divorce in Louisiana unless you are filing for a no-fault divorce. Louisiana divorce laws require divorcing spouses to meet a separation requirement if they file for a divorce on no-fault grounds. There are two separation requirements for a divorce based on no-fault grounds:
- Living separate and apart for 180 days for couples without minor children
- Living separate and apart for 365 days for couples with minor children
Divorcing couples must live in different homes and have no sexual relations during this period. On the other hand, if you are filing for a divorce based on fault grounds, you don’t have to prove separation to leave your spouse.
What are the grounds for divorce in Louisiana?
There are two grounds for divorce in Louisiana: no-fault and fault-based divorces. You can only get a no-fault divorce if you and your spouse have lived separately and apart for the required period. No-fault divorces are of two types:
- Article 102 divorce: Louisiana divorce laws allow you to file your petition if you and your spouse do not meet the separation period. However, your divorce may only be finalized after you have met the separation requirements.
- Article 103 Divorce: This type of no-fault divorce is for couples who meet the separation requirement.
The separation requirement for a no-fault divorce is living separately and apart for 180 days if you don’t have minor children with your spouse or 365 days if you do have minor children with your spouse.
Fault-based grounds allow you to file for divorce if your spouse has done something unbearable, making it impossible for you to continue the marriage. These are the grounds for a fault-based divorce under Louisiana laws:
- Domestic abuse, including physical or sexual abuse of one spouse by the other spouse. Louisiana law also allows you to file for a divorce where a court has issued a restraining order against your spouse to protect you or your children from abuse.
- Imprisonment for a felony or death sentence: You may file for a divorce if your spouse is imprisoned for more than three years or has been sentenced to death.
You may need to prove separation if you and your spouse have a covenant marriage. A covenant marriage involves spouses who marry intending to be together forever. Recognized in only three states, covenant marriages are more difficult to break off because the law requires spouses to seek counseling to resolve their disputes. This is because commitments in a covenant marriage are lifelong.
However, a spouse in a covenant marriage may file for divorce if any of the following apply:
- Your spouse has committed adultery
- Your spouse commits a felony and is sentenced to imprisonment at hard labor or death
- Your spouse has abandoned you for one year
- Your spouse has physically or sexually abused you or a child of either spouse
- You and your spouse have lived separate and apart for two years
- You and your spouse are legally separated and have lived apart since the order of legal separation
Can I get child support in a Louisiana divorce?
Yes, you can get child support included in your Louisiana divorce order. In Louisiana, both parents have a legal duty to support their minor children. However, child support payments may be influenced by custody arrangements. Usually, the court orders the noncustodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent, or whom the child lives with.
The assumption is that the custodial parent spends directly on the child while the other spouse supplements that effort with periodic payments. In deciding the amount of support to be paid by one spouse to the other, the court considers the following:
- The number of children
- Child custody arrangements
- The earnings of each parent
- The mental and physical health conditions of each parent.
Louisiana has a child support calculator that helps parents estimate the likely support amount payable to the other spouse based on income and the number of children. You can also contact the Department of Children and Family Services to clarify what your child support obligations will entail.
Can I get a divorce in Louisiana if I was married in another state?
Yes, you can get a divorce in Louisiana even if you married your partner in another state. Once either spouse meets the residency requirement, you may file a divorce petition in the parish you reside in, subject to the mandatory waiting period.
Where can I file for divorce in Louisiana?
The appropriate place to file your Louisiana divorce papers is at the courthouse in the parish where you or your spouse lives. You may also file your divorce papers in the parish where you and your spouse lived together before separation.
Can I get a no-fault divorce in Louisiana?
Yes, you can. Louisiana law allows you to file for a divorce on both fault and no-fault grounds. However, the law also adds some requirements for spouses seeking to divorce on no-fault grounds. You must meet the following requirements to obtain a divorce on no-fault grounds in Louisiana:
- You and your spouse must have lived separately for a minimum of 180 days if you don’t have children.
- You and your spouse must have lived separately for a minimum of 365 days if you have minor children.
If you file for a no-fault divorce without meeting these requirements, the courts will not grant a final divorce order until you meet the separation requirement.
What factors influence spousal support payments in Louisiana?
Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a payment made by one spouse to the other in compliance with court orders. Such payments are made to help the receiving spouse become financially independent. There are three types of spousal support payments in Louisiana:
- Interim spousal support: This type of alimony is temporary and terminates once the court grants your final divorce judgment.
- Periodic support: The court may order one spouse to pay periodic support to the other spouse to enable that other spouse to attain financial independence. During this period, the spouse receiving support must find employment or gain skills to improve their earning capacity.
- Permanent support: Louisiana courts rarely grant permanent support except on the grounds of old age or disability that prevent the spouse requesting support from working. Permanent support payments are not indefinite and terminate once the receiving spouse dies or remarries.
The court’s primary factor in awarding spousal support is the need and ability to pay rule. The spouse requesting support must genuinely need financial assistance, while the other spouse must be financially able to pay. Once this condition is met, the court will consider the following:
- Whether the spouse requesting support was at fault for the divorce, e.g., if the spouse committed adultery
- The incomes of each spouse
- The effect of spousal support payments on the tax obligations of each spouse
- The age, physical and health conditions of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- Any history of domestic abuse by the spouse who is being asked to pay support
- The consequences of child custody and parental care on each spouse’s income
In addition to the above, the court will consider the contributions of the spouse requesting support to the career or educational advancement of the paying spouse. Spousal support payments may be as high as 30% of the paying spouse’s income but do not exceed this threshold unless there is a history of domestic violence. Where the requesting spouse claims a refund of their contributions to the other spouse’s professional progress, the court may award a lump sum payment.
How are marital assets shared in Louisiana?
Louisiana operates a community property regime. This means the court seeks to share marital assets as evenly as possible. In other words, the spouse seeking divorce is entitled to 50% of all assets classified as marital property. You may avoid this splitting ratio if you have a prenuptial agreement with your spouse or show that an asset does not qualify as marital property.
The court might consider an asset as marital property if either spouse acquired it during the marriage. The key factor is when you acquired the property. However, an asset acquired during marriage may not be classified as community property if any of the following are true:
- It is a gift or inheritance
- The spouses agree to list it as separate property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
- It is received as damages or compensation for personal injury
This asset category is considered separate property and is exempt from the community property rule. Assets acquired by either spouse before the marriage are also considered separate property and will not be split in a divorce.
It is important to note that these classifications may overlap. When this happens, separate property may become community property. For instance, if you contribute to renovating or expanding a ranch belonging to your spouse, the ranch becomes community property.
Calling it quits with your partner isn’t the easiest thing to do, and you will need all the help you can get. I hope this guide helps you prepare for the journey ahead of you and that you can look back knowing that saying goodbye to your spouse was worth the hassle.