Divorce can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. But it doesn't have to involve a drawn-out, expensive court battle. If you and your spouse can agree on how you'll deal with the legal, financial, and practical details involved in ending your marriage, you can save money and time by getting an uncontested divorce in Louisiana.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Louisiana, you must meet three basic requirements: state residency, agreement on the legal reason for your divorce, and agreement on the issues in your case.
To get a divorce in Louisiana, one or both of the spouses must be "domiciled" in the state. To be considered domiciled in the state, the person must have established and maintained a residence in a parish of Louisiana for a period of six months. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 10 (2022).)
You must have a legally accepted reason (or "ground") to get divorced in any state. Louisiana allows both no-fault and fault-based grounds for divorce. Couples who want to file an uncontested divorce will choose to file a no-fault divorce, because neither spouse is required to prove that the other's bad acts were the cause of the divorce.
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.
You and your spouse will need to agree on which type of no-fault divorce to file—in other words, you'll need to agree on the number of days that you've lived separately and apart (if at all) before filing.
Before you file for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will need to work out agreements on all the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble agreeing about any of these issues—or any other matters you want to address in your divorce—mediation might help you find solutions that work for both you and your spouse. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document to prepare your written marital settlement agreement.
To start a divorce in Louisiana, 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.
Required forms can vary by parish, so you'll need to contact the clerk of court to find out what forms are required for divorce where you will be filing. To simplify matters, you could instead file for divorce online with a service that will complete the proper uncontested divorce forms for you, based on your answers to a questionnaire. These services typically will help you create a settlement agreement or stipulation (and some will take care of filing the divorce papers) for an additional fee.
If you're filing an Article 102 divorce, you'll eventually 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 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.
Many couples getting uncontested divorces avoid having to have the non-filing spouse served by having the non-filing spouse sign a form called the Acceptance of Service and Waiver of Citation. The spouse will have to sign it in front of a notary. Once it's signed, file the completed waiver with the clerk of court.
Some states require couples to wait for a 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, 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's no waiting period if you file an Article 103 divorce.
Once you've met the state's requirements for living separately and apart, how long your divorce will take depends on the court's schedule. You can ask the clerk of court what the current estimated time is for completing an uncontested divorce.
As a rule, an uncontested divorce is a lot cheaper than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because many couples can get through the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers to represent them—which leads to big savings on the normal cost of divorce.
The basic expense for an uncontested divorce will be the court fee to file the divorce papers. Louisiana's 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 in 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.
Beyond the filing fee, your costs will depend on whether you get a "pure" do-it-yourself divorce or you need some help with the process.