In order to start the divorce process without a lawyer, you'll need to complete some forms. The forms are not readily available from the Louisiana Judicial Branch website, but you can go to your local parish courthouse and request a complete packet of divorce papers. Divorce forms will vary from courthouse to courthouse, but a good example of what you can generally expect to see is available on the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court's website.
You may find additional resources through Louisiana Law Help—a joint project of Louisiana's various legal aid societies. Louisiana Law Help offers free divorce forms and videos to guide you through the divorce process.
When you're ready to file for divorce, you will be the "petitioner," or the spouse who initiates the divorce. The "respondent" is the spouse who receives the petitioner's divorce papers.
The petitioner spouse has to complete the following documents in order to begin the divorce process:
Don't sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless and until you're in the presence of a notary. When you work on the forms, be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. If not, write or print neatly and legibly.
When you're ready, make two copies of all documents—you will give one set to your spouse and keep the other for yourself. You will file the originals with the court.
Go to your local courthouse and ask to file the documents. It's very important that you file in the right courthouse, or your divorce will be invalid. Louisiana's trial courts, which handle divorces, are divided into different districts. One district can cover multiple parishes, so if you have any questions or are unsure whether you're filing in the right courthouse, ask the clerk of court. You can file for divorce in the parish where you live or the parish where your spouse lives. Either spouse must have lived in Louisiana for at least one year before filing for divorce.
You'll need to pay a fee to file your documents unless you complete an Affidavit to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, which can be obtained from the clerk of court and will be reviewed by the court. If the court agrees that the fee should be waived because you can't afford it, you won't have to pay to file documents in your case.
When you give your documents to the clerk of court, they will be dated, stamped, and a file will be created in the courthouse. Serve your spouse with a set of the signed, stamped photocopies as soon as possible after leaving.
Once you've filed your divorce forms, you should immediately "serve" your spouse with the documents. Service refers to the delivery of divorce documents to your spouse. Service ensures that your spouse is aware of the divorce and has the opportunity to respond to your petition and attend any court hearings that may be scheduled.
If your spouse is proceeding pro se (meaning, has not hired a lawyer), then you should hire a process server or the sheriff to serve your divorce documents at your spouse's home. The sheriff or process server will personally serve your spouse by physically handing your spouse a copy of the summons and petition.
Alternatively, your spouse has retained a lawyer and the lawyer has agreed to accept service, you may serve the lawyer at the lawyer's office and don't need to send copies to your spouse. If your spouse agrees to waive service, you can hand deliver the documents yourself and provide a waiver of service form, which must be signed by your spouse. You'll need to file the signed waiver of service at the courthouse.
Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is hard to locate, a spouse in the military, or in jail. Check with the clerk of court for more advice in these unusual situations.
Both spouses have to complete a form called a Financial Affidavit. This document details each spouse's financial picture, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. You may also have to attach financial documents, such as pay stubs and tax returns.
These disclosures help everyone understand more about, for example, how much child support should be paid, how the property and debts should be divided, and whether one spouse should receive alimony. Make sure you are clear, detailed, and candid when you complete this form. See LSA. Civ. Code 111 (2019).
See our topic page on Louisiana Divorce and Family Laws to find information on the divorce process as well as related legal issues.
If you need extra help or if you just have questions, Louisiana Law Help hosts a divorce topic page that offers information and resources on divorce and parenting issues. Louisiana
If you need extra help, you can ask for help by contacting Louisiana's legal aid programs, which serve qualifying low-income and elderly Louisiana residents with legal problems.