Every state has its own rules and procedures for filing a divorce. Here's what you need to know to get started with your Louisiana divorce.
You must meet a state's residency requirements in order to get a divorce in its courts. In Louisiana, one or both of the spouses must be "domiciled" in the state. If a spouse has established and maintained a residence in a Louisiana parish for six months, the court will presume that the spouse has a domicile in the state. But that presumption is "rebuttable," meaning that you may counter it by presenting evidence that a spouse's domicile is actually elsewhere. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 10 (2022).)
Louisiana allows both "no-fault" and "fault-based" divorces. A no-fault divorce is one in which the court doesn't require either spouse to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one or both of the spouses must show that the other's actions caused (were "grounds for") the failure of the marriage.
Under Louisiana law, there are two types of no-fault divorces: Article 102 divorce and Article 103 divorce. Which type of divorce is right for you depends on whether you and your spouse have been living separately before filing for divorce.
In a fault-based divorce, one or both spouses will have to present evidence to the judge that proves that the other spouse committed acts that meet one of Louisiana's fault-based grounds for divorce. Any of the following can be grounds for filing a fault-based divorce in Louisiana:
(La. Civ. Code art. 103(2)-(5) (2022).)
Generally, there are two types of divorce—uncontested and contested. An uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on all divorce-related matters, such as division of property, child custody, and alimony (spousal support). A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one where the spouses disagree on at least one topic and must ask a court to decide the issues in their divorce.
Uncontested divorces in Louisiana usually reach resolution faster and are less expensive than contested divorces because there's no fighting in court. Instead, the judge needs only to review and approve the spouses' marital settlement agreement and issue a divorce decree.
The procedures for filing an uncontested divorce and contested divorce in Louisiana are the same. To start a divorce, you'll need to file a petition for divorce in the parish where you or your spouse lives. Alternatively, you can file in the parish where you last lived as a married couple. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 3941 (2022).) To find your local court, visit the Louisiana State Bar's self-help page and enter your parish in the "Select a Parish" box at the bottom of the page. Check with the clerk of the court to make sure you are filing in the correct court.
If you've filed an Article 102 divorce, you'll also need to file a Rule to Show Cause when the required separation period has ended. The Rule to Show Cause lets the court know that the divorce petition has been served on the non-filing spouse, that the required separation period has ended, and that the spouses have lived separate and apart continuously for the separation period. Once the Rule to Show Cause is filed, the non-filing spouse can respond and "show cause" (give a reason) why the divorce shouldn't be granted (if applicable). The non-filing spouse can also file motions regarding other matters in the divorce, such as spousal support, child support, and child custody.
Some states require couples to wait period of time after the filing of a divorce before the court will finalize the divorce. In Louisiana, if you file an Article 102 divorce (discussed above) and have minor children, you must live separate and apart for 365 days after the divorce papers have been served before the court can move forward with your divorce. If you don't have children, you must live separate and apart for 180 days after the divorce papers have been served.
There is no waiting period if you file an Article 103 divorce.
Along with the right paperwork, you'll have to pay court filing fees to begin your divorce. The filing fees differ from parish to parish, so check with the clerk of court to find out the exact fees where you will file. As an example, 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 waive the fees by filing an affidavit with the court to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP). If the court grants your request, the court allows you to have your fees deferred until the end of the case.
Once you file the paperwork, you'll need to provide notice to your spouse of the divorce by "serving" (delivering) copies of what was filed with the court. In Louisiana, you can request in your divorce petition that the sheriff's office serve your spouse. There will be an additional fee for the sheriff to serve the papers. If your spouse lives outside of Louisiana, you can serve the papers by certified mail.
Alternatively, your spouse can waive service by signing a form called the Acceptance of Service and Waiver of Citation. Your spouse will have to sign it in front of a notary. After your spouse has signed, file the completed waiver with the clerk of the court.
If you'd like to DIY your divorce, your parish court might have forms you can use available online or for pickup at the clerk's office. The Law Library of Louisiana also has some forms available online.
If you're working with an attorney, your attorney will assess your situation and fil out, file, and serve all the necessary forms. Many divorcing couples can't afford to hire an attorney to handle their entire case, but would like some assistance with completing and filing their forms. If this describes your situation, consider using an online divorce service or finding an attorney who will consult with you on an as-needed basis. Low-income individuals might qualify for reduced-fee or free legal aid.