Unfortunately, nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. If you're facing a divorce, this article will help you understand how the process works in Louisiana.
Every divorce begins when one spouse files a request with the court. In the initial paperwork, the spouse asks the court to terminate the marriage, but a judge can't grant the application unless you give a specific legal reason for the breakdown of your marriage (grounds). Some states allow spouses to request a fault divorce, meaning your spouse's marital misconduct caused your relationship to fail. Fault grounds vary by state, but the most common include adultery, desertion, and physical or sexual abuse.
All states allow spouses to pursue some form of no-fault divorce, which is usually based on irreconcilable differences and separation for a specific amount of time. Most couples favor this type of divorce because the court doesn't require either spouse to place blame on the other, which typically results in a faster and less emotional court battle.
Couples who wish to divorce in Louisiana must demonstrate to the court that they have lived separate and apart, continuously, for at least six months if there are no children of the marriage. If there are minor children, you must live apart for one year before a judge will grant the divorce.
During the separation, one spouse must intend to end the marriage. In other words, if you spent time apart to work on your marriage, you can't use the separation to meet the divorce requirements. Instead, you will need to restart the clock for the 180 days once you've decided to divorce.
In some states, couples can live together in the same home, and the court will still consider the couple to be separated. But, in Louisiana, at least one spouse must move out of the marital home for the entire separation period.
If there's any dispute about whether the spouse left voluntarily, or with the intent of getting a divorce, the court will listen to testimony from both spouses to decide if the couple meets the divorce requirements.
For example, in one case, a wife filed a no-fault divorce petition stating that she and her husband lived apart for 180 days. During the case, the court discovered that the wife spent significant time packing her clothes, but still lived in the marital home with her husband. The clock for living separate and apart doesn't start until one spouse physically moves out of the house, so the court delayed the wife's divorce petition until 180 days passed from the time she left home.
If you can't meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce, or if your spouse's misconduct caused your breakup, Louisiana still allows you to allege specific "fault" grounds for divorce.
The acceptable fault grounds in Louisiana include:
A fault divorce is more complicated than a no-fault divorce, and a spouse that alleges marital misconduct must prove to the court that the conduct happened by providing supporting evidence. For example, if your spouse committed adultery, you will need to identify when and where the affair took place and the individual involved with your spouse.
Covenant marriages are rare, and only three states—Louisiana, Arkansas, and Arizona—still allow these. 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 don't have the option to file for no-fault divorce and must prove at least one of the state's established fault grounds.
In addition to proving fault grounds, couples must also attend counseling or take other reasonable steps when marital difficulties begin. Counseling will continue until the judge issues a final judgment of divorce. It's important to understand that if one spouse is guilty of physical or sexual abuse, the court doesn't require the other spouse to participate in counseling.
The acceptable grounds for divorce from a covenant marriage include:
Yes. Contrary to popular belief, not all divorces are like what you see on prime time television. If you and your spouse can agree on all divorce-related issues, you can ask the court to grant you an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces don't require a trial, so it usually means both spouses will save time and money, even if they both hire an attorney.
Before a court can grant your uncontested divorce petition, you will need to prove to the judge that you have lived separate and apart for at least six months (12 months if you have minor children). The requirements are the same as for a no-fault divorce, so one spouse must have left home voluntarily with the intent of terminating the marriage.
In addition to meeting the statutory requirements, you and your spouse will need to prepare a settlement agreement to the court that explains how you will divide your marital property and debt, who will care for the children and pay child support, and whether either spouse will provide the other with alimony.
Uncontested divorce only works if both spouses agree on every issue. If you disagree with anything during the process, the court will treat your case as a contested divorce, which usually requires a trial, after which a judge will decide all remaining divorce-related issues.
Yes. Like most states, Louisiana has a residency requirement that you must meet before you can file for divorce. Couples must show that at least one spouse has lived in the state for a minimum of 12 months before filing a request for divorce.