The divorce process can often seem overwhelming. You have to deal with the emotional and practical changes that come with ending a marriage, while trying to navigate a legal system that's likely completely foreign to you. And then there are the money worries that are almost always in the picture. But you can find answers to your questions about divorce laws in Louisiana, as well as the help you need.
In order to get a Louisiana divorce, you or your spouse must be "domiciled" in the state when you file for divorce. If a spouse has established and maintained a residence in a Louisiana parish for six months, the law presumes that the spouse is domiciled in the state. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 10 (2022).)
Note that gay and lesbian couples have the same legal rights in divorce as opposite sex couples. But same-sex divorce sometimes involves extra complications, particularly for couples who lived together before same-sex marriage was legal.
Louisiana allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. In a no-fault divorce, one spouse doesn't have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong, causing the divorce. With a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other's actions brought about (were "grounds" for) the failure of the marriage.
If you want to get a no-fault divorce in Louisiana, you and your spouse must have lived separate and apart for a particular period of time—365 days if you have children, 180 days if you don't. If you haven't been separated long enough before you file your divorce papers, you'll may still file for what's known as an "Article 102" divorce. But you won't be able to get your final divorce until you've been separated for the required period of time after the divorce process started. (Learn more about how to file for the different types of divorce in Louisiana.)
Note that in Louisiana, the phrase "living separate and apart" means that the spouses must physically separate. This is different from some other states that allow separated couples to live in the same house, as long as they don't engage in marital relations.
Fault-based grounds for divorce in Louisiana are:
(La. Civ. Code art. 102, 103 (2022).)
When you file your divorce petition, you'll need to pay a filing fee. The filing fees differ from parish to parish, so check with the court clerk to find out the exact fees. For example, as of August 2022, the divorce filing fees in Jefferson Parish range from $400 to $600, depending on the complexity of the case.
If you can't afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask the judge to initially waive them by filing an affidavit (sworn written statement) with the court to proceed in forma pauperis. If the court grants your request, you'll be allowed to defer your fees until the end of the case.
Beyond the filing fee, the cost of divorce will depend on the specifics of your case, especially:
If you're proceeding on fault-based grounds, or you're filing for a no-fault divorce and have been living separate and apart for the requisite period of time prior to filing the divorce petition, there's no mandatory waiting period to get your divorce.
If you're filing on no-fault grounds but haven't been separated for the required period, in order for your divorce to go through you'll have to wait:
As with cost, the actual amount of time your divorce will take depends on the circumstances in your case. If your divorce is contested, you'll have to go through a number of legal steps that can add several months to the process. And if you and your spouse aren't able to reach a settlement agreement at some point in the process (more on that below), going to trial will require even more time—usually more than a year. Court backlogs can also make the entire process take longer.
Divorce courts in Louisiana distribute a couple's marital assets based on the theory of "community property." This means judges will attempt to divide the property as evenly as possible. Where problems tend to arise is in determining which assets are marital property and which are owned separately by each spouse.
Attributing a value to each asset is usually pretty straightforward. But dividing some property can be tricky at times. You'll often see this with a family-owned business, where you may need the input of a forensic accountant. Splitting pensions or retirement accounts is another example that usually requires hiring an expert.
All decisions about the legal and physical custody of children in any Louisiana divorce must be based on what would be in the children's best interests.
Judges will consider several factors when they make custody decisions, including the custody preferences of children who are mature enough to express an intelligent opinion on the subject.
Like all states in the U.S., Louisiana has guidelines that include detailed rules for deciding who must pay child support and how much those payments should be. Learn all about how child support is calculated in Louisiana, including when support amounts may depart from the guidelines.
Before judges will order a spouse to pay spousal support (alimony) in Louisiana at the end of the divorce process, they must consider a long list of factors, such as the length of the marriage, a spouse's ability to pay, and the spouses' physical and mental health.
Interim spousal support is available while the divorce is in progress, if the judge believes it's warranted.
Yes, you may agree with your spouse about how to handle the issues in your divorce at any point during the process, from before you've filed the divorce papers right up to just before a trial.
Once you've worked out all your issues, the terms of your settlement will normally be spelled out in a written divorce settlement agreement that will become part of the final divorce decree. If you've already reached an agreement before you've filed your divorce papers, the court will consider your case to be uncontested—and you can get your divorce decree fairly quickly, depending on the grounds for divorce. (But remember the waiting period discussed above for certain uncontested divorces.)
You'll usually be able to get your divorce decree without going to court if you've submitted all the required paperwork for an uncontested case. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 1702(F) (2022).) But judges may require a court appearance if they believe it's warranted. Check with the court clerk in advance to determine whether a court appearance will be necessary.
If you aren't able to agree with your spouse about one or more of the legal issues involved in ending your marriage, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the disputes for you. Anytime you need a trial, your divorce will take longer and cost more. So if at all possible, it's in your best interest to do everything you can to come to a settlement agreement that's fair to both you and your spouse.
If you want to get an annulment (known as a "null marriage"), you'll need to convince a judge that you meet one of the grounds for an "absolutely" null marriage or a "relatively" null marriage. (La. Civ. Code art. 94 and 95 (2022).)
Learn more about annulment in Louisiana, including the allowable reasons, the legal process, and the effects of nullifying a marriage.
You can find answers to other divorce-related questions in our section on divorce in Louisiana.
Here are some other resources: