In Louisiana, either spouse may file for divorce when the two spouses are living separate and apart. One spouse may also file if the other commits adultery or a felony. In these cases, you do not need any other grounds. However, if the marriage is a covenant marriage, the court must find grounds for divorce including adultery, physical abuse, felony conviction, or an agreement between the spouses to dissolve their marriage.
You must be a Louisiana resident for at least six months before you can file a petition for divorce and you may file in the parish where either spouse lives. The court will enter a final decree of divorce once the spouses have lived apart for at least six months if there are no children, or one year if there are children, as long as issues of property and custody have been resolved.
Louisiana is a community property state. Property, including your home, income, and personal property acquired during the marriage is considered community property and will be divided equally by the court unless you and your spouse make another agreement. The court will also divide equally any debts acquired during the marriage by either spouse. Any property that either spouse owned before marriage or acquires after the date of separation is the separate property of the spouse who acquired it and isn’t divided at divorce.
Louisiana courts may order one spouse to pay alimony if the other spouse needs financial support. The judge will review several factors to determine the amount of the order such as each spouse’s ability to work, health, age, and financial obligations, as well as the length of the marriage and whether one spouse has primary custody of the children. Spousal support ends if the spouse receiving support remarries or if either party dies.
In Louisiana, both parents must financially support their children according to their respective abilities. Child support obligations continue until a child completes high school or turns 19. The court uses state guidelines based on the parents' incomes to determine an amount of child support. The order may also include an additional amount for child care expenses, health insurance, and medical expenses. Unless the parents agree otherwise, the court will order an income assignment to automatically deduct support from the paying parent's paycheck. A parent must show a substantial change in circumstances to modify a child support order. Child support orders in Louisiana are enforced by the Department of Child Support Enforcement.
In making a child custody or visitation order, Louisiana courts are guided by the best interests of the child. If the parents do not agree on a custody and visitation schedule, the court will award joint custody to both parents unless there is a convincing reason to award sole custody to one parent. The court will consider factors such as the emotional ties between the parents and child, each parent’s capacity to provide for the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs, the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community, and each parent’s willingness to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent. The court will use a similar standard to determine whether custody and visitation should be modified.