If you're facing divorce, you might have an idea why your marriage has hit the rocks. But there's a difference between the relationship problems that lead to divorce and the legally accepted reasons, or "grounds," for divorce in your state. When you file for divorce in Louisiana, you may claim either a "no-fault" or "fault-based" ground for your divorce. We'll explain what those grounds mean, as well as how they can affect the divorce process.
When you file for a no-fault divorce, you won't have to claim (or prove) that your spouse was to blame for the end of your marriage. Many states allow you to file for no-fault divorce based on the simple fact that you and your spouse can't get along, and there's no reasonable hope of reconciliation. But not Louisiana. In order to qualify for a no-fault divorce in the state, you and your spouse will need to live separate and apart for an uninterrupted period of time. The minimum separation period depends on whether you and your spouse have minor children:
(La. Civ. Code art. 103(1), 103.1 (2023).)
The minimum separation period starts when the spouses are physically living apart and at least one of them has expressed an intention to end the marriage. (Dunn v. Dunn, 309 So.3d 969 (La. Ct. App. 2021).) So if you spent time apart to work on your marriage, you would need to restart the clock once you've done or said something to show that you've decided to divorce.
If you haven't lived apart long enough before you start the divorce process, you may file for what's known as an "Article 102" divorce. Then the judge may grant your final divorce when you've proved that you've lived separately for the required amount of time (180 or 365 days) since the spouse who filed for divorce served the papers on the other spouse, or the other spouse signed a waiver of service. (La. Civ. Code art. 102 (2023).) (Learn more about how to file and serve divorce papers in Louisiana.)
If there's any dispute about whether a spouse moved out voluntarily or intended to get divorced, the judge will consider the evidence, including testimony from both spouses, before deciding whether they've couple met the separation requirement.
Louisiana law also allows you to file for a fault divorce by claiming that your spouse:
(La. Civ. Code art. 103 (2023).)
Covenant marriages are rare, and Louisiana is one of only three states that still allow them. Unlike traditional marriage, which allows couples to marry and divorce with few restrictions, couples who wish to enter a covenant marriage agree to participate in premarital counseling, decide in advance how they will handle divorce, and agree to attend predivorce counseling if they later decide to terminate their marriage.
The purpose of this type of marriage is to make it difficult to divorce. Couples with a covenant marriage don't have the option to file for no-fault divorce. Instead, they must prove one of the fault grounds listed above, one spouse's abandonment for at least a year, or separation without reconciliation for at least two years (or a shorter period after a legal separation judgement). (La. Rev. Stat. §§ 9:272, 9:307 (2023).)
Because of the lengthy separation period that Louisiana requires for a no-fault divorce, you might be tempted to file for a fault divorce if you want to end your marriage quickly. But you should know that a fault divorce usually takes longer, costs more, and involves more conflict than a no-fault divorce. That's largely because you'll have to gather evidence and prove to the judge that the misconduct actually happened. And your spouse will most likely counter your claims.
Also, filing for a fault-based divorce means that you won't be able to take advantage of the time- and cost-saving benefits of an uncontested divorce in Louisiana. When you and your spouse reach a divorce settlement agreement before you start the divorce process—either on your own or with the help of mediation—you may be able to a DIY divorce without hiring a lawyer.
Still, you may have reasons to believe that filing for a fault divorce could be to your advantage. For instance, if you can prove that your spouse is guilty of fault, you'll be assured that you won't have to pay spousal support in Louisiana. And on the flip side of the coin, the law presumes that you're entitled to receive alimony if your spouse has committed adultery or domestic abuse. (La. Civ. Code art. 112 (2023).)
If you're considering filing for a fault divorce, you should speak with an experienced divorce lawyer in Louisiana who can evaluate your case and lay out the best course of action.