Going through a divorce can be exquisitely painful. Fortunately, no one is doomed to a certain fate of sky-high attorney fees and stressful courtroom battles. Couples who can compromise may be able to get an uncontested divorce that will save both spouses valuable time and money.
This article provides an overview of uncontested divorces in Louisiana. If you still have questions after reading this article, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney.
An “uncontested divorce” simply means that both spouses agree on all the key terms of the divorce, including:
Couples who are unable to resolve any issues in their divorce will have to go to trial and leave things up to a judge to decide. You’ll have the opportunity to settle your case on your own or with the help of a mediator at any point up to trial.
Couples who can compromise will be able to get divorced faster and have a cheaper divorce process that couples who battle their way through trial. You and your spouse can reach a final divorce settlement on your own or with the help of a mediator. Once you’ve finalized your written settlement agreement, you’ll present it to a judge for approval.
As long as your agreement isn’t unfairly one-sided and meets the best interests of any minor children, a judge will likely approve your agreement. Yet even couples who agree to an uncontested divorce must still follow Louisiana’s procedural waiting periods before their divorce can be finalized.
To file for divorce in Louisiana, you must meet the residency requirement by living in the state for at least one year before the divorce begins. Louisiana residents who are living out of state can still file for divorce in Louisiana as long as they’ve maintained their residency.
The above rules apply to traditional marriages and divorces. Louisiana is one of three states (as of 2020) that recognizes covenant marriages. If you and your spouse entered into a “covenant marriage” in Louisiana, you’re required to seek marital counseling before you can file for divorce.
Couples can seek an uncontested divorce based on the fact the couple has been living separate and apart. Spouses must have been separated for six months (if there are no children) or one year (if they have children) before a judge will grant a divorce. There's one exception: if you have a covenant marriage, you can't get an uncontested divorce in Louisiana. See LSA-C.C. Art 103.1 (2020).
Alternatively, couples can file for a grounds-based divorce in Louisiana based on adultery or a felony conviction. See LSA-C.C. Art 103 (2020). Couples who have a covenant marriage can seek a divorce based on one of the following fault grounds:
The key here is that to get an uncontested divorce, you have to agree on everything—including the grounds. If you opt for a fault-based ground like adultery, your spouse is much more likely to want to argue about the divorce instead of cooperating with you.
If you’re getting a divorce in Louisiana without a lawyer, you’re responsible for knowing where and how to file your papers. If you file your divorce petition in the wrong place or fail to serve your spouse correctly, your case could be tossed out or transferred and you might have to begin the process again.
Louisiana’s courts are organized differently than most other states. Louisiana has 43 district courts, 5 family or juvenile courts, 49 city courts, and 3 parish courts, so it can be a little daunting to figure out the system if you're new to it.
The district courts are the basic entry-level trial courts for the state, and they have the jurisdiction (authority) to handle all civil and criminal cases, including divorces. You'll need to file your divorce papers in the parish where you live or the parish where your spouse lives.
If you want to initiate the divorce, the first thing you'll need to do is locate the correct forms and complete them. Although you probably won’t get a divorce in Louisiana for free, you can save a lot of money by completing online Louisiana divorce forms yourself, rather than hiring a lawyer.
Louisiana divorce forms vary from parish to parish, but in general, the online forms used by the Orleans Parish are a good example of what you can expect to find. You may also be able to use Louisiana Law Help's site or information from the Louisiana Courts Self-Help Center to access and complete Louisiana divorce forms online.
Be sure to take your time and work carefully to complete your divorce paperwork. It’s a good idea to type your divorce forms on a computer or print neatly. Any mistakes or incomplete forms could delay your divorce. Although you can ask your local court clerk basic questions, he or she cannot give you legal advice.
You may be able to find the answers to some of your questions or legal assistance from Louisiana Law Help (legal aid and free divorce information), Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, or through the Parish of Orleans Civil District Court's Legal Assistance Information page. If you still have specific questions about your case, you may need to hire a lawyer.
If you’re seeking an uncontested divorce, your divorce paperwork should include a petition for divorce, summons, and a settlement agreement that resolves all your issues. After you’ve filed those items with the court, you’ll need to serve the divorce documents on your spouse according to the rules of your parish courthouse.
There are filing and service fees, but if you can't pay them, just ask the clerk for a fee waiver form. You'll fill it out by furnishing your income information, and if a judge agrees that you're indigent (below the poverty line), you won't have to pay fees to serve or file documents. However, you will still have to pay for certified copies of your divorce papers.
While your divorce likely won’t be free, you can obtain a cheap divorce in Louisiana if you are your spouse are reasonable and able to work together to reach a settlement. If the terms of your settlement agreement are fair and comport with Louisiana law, the judge will approve it and finalize your divorce.