Requirements for Divorce in Louisiana
Louisiana is a “no-fault” divorce state
You need to live in Louisiana for at least six months before filing for divorce
For a divorce in Louisiana to happen, your spouse and you must live separately and apart
Step 1: Starting your Louisiana Divorce
Preparing Your Documents
To begin the divorce process, you need to fill some documents and you can get the packet of divorce forms from the local parish court. The forms usually vary from one courthouse to another. Alternatively, you can also use the interactive divorce form that is available on the Louisiana Law Help website and the online interface aids you in preparing the proper forms. In Louisiana, the spouse who files for divorce is referred to as the “petitioner”. The spouse who is served the divorce papers is known as the “respondent”.
Documents Needed for Filing for Divorce
Acceptance of Service, Waiver & Consent: This form is to be used by the defendant to acknowledge that you have received a copy of the divorce papers.
Judgment for Divorce: When this form is signed by the judge after the final court hearing, the divorce process will be complete.
Marital Settlement Agreement: This form is to be completed when the terms of the divorce are being negotiated and when both spouses agree on the various issues.
Petition For Divorce Article 102: This form should be used if you’re filing for divorce under Article 102 (i.e. if you have minor children).
Petitioner’s Affidavit Article 102
Rule to Show Cause Article 102: When signed and authorized by the judge, this form has the divorce order that will finalize your divorce.
Petition for Divorce Article 103: This form should be used to apply for divorce under Article 103 (i.e. if you don’t have minor children).
Petitioner’s Affidavit Article 103
Rule to Show Cause Article 103: This form finalizes your divorce when it is signed by the judge.
Filing Your Forms
Once the forms are ready, take 2 copies of the documents. The original will be filed with the court and you must keep one copy of the forms, while the other will be given to your spouse.
You must file the divorce forms at your local courthouse and it is extremely important that you file the papers in the correct courthouse, otherwise, your divorce will be regarded as invalid. Usually, the trial courts which handle the divorce cases in Louisiana are divided into various districts and one district covers several parishes.
So, it is a good idea to check with the court clerk if you are filing your papers in the correct courthouse. You can either file for a divorce in the parish in which your spouse resides or where you reside. Once you submit your forms to the court clerk, the documents will be stamped and dated and your file will be created.
Step 2: Serving LA divorce papers
Once the forms are prepared and filed, they should be served to your spouse immediately. If your spouse has not hired a lawyer (i.e. pro se), then you must serve your spouse at his/her home address directly. However, if your spouse has employed an attorney, then you must serve the attorney at his/her office and must not send any copies of the papers to your spouse.
If you are serving your spouse in Louisiana, then there are special rules of service which are applicable and you have 3 options for service:
The summons and the divorce petition can be sent to your spouse by certified mail with a request of a return receipt. Once you receive the receipt, it should be filed with the court as a “proof of service”.
Your spouse can be served personally by a professional process server or the sheriff, who will locate your spouse and hand over the divorce petition and summons physically.
You can deliver the papers by hand personally and get a waiver of service form signed by your spouse, which must be then filed at the court.
If your spouse is in jail, in the military or difficult to locate, then different service rules apply and you must check with the court clerk for more information on how to handle these situations.
Step 3: Contested or uncontested LA divorce?
When the two spouses are not able to agree on various issues with regards to the divorce, the case will go to trial. This is known as a contested divorce. The judge will hear the case and make decisions regarding property division, alimony, child custody and support, etc. Contested divorces are more expensive as the greater the time that the two parties spend fighting over various issues, the higher their court and legal costs will be. So, before going to court, it is a good idea to work out a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree on all the main issues of the divorce including:
Division of the marital property and debts
Custody of the children and visitation and where the children will live
Child support, medical expenses, health and dental insurance expenses of the children
Any other disputes
There are some procedural rules in the Louisiana civil code that can hasten uncontested divorces:
If the spouse filing for divorce files a divorce petition and proves that 6 months (if there are no minor children) or 1 year (if there are minor children) have elapsed since the petition was served on the other spouse and that both spouses have been living apart and separately for the entire time, then the divorce will be granted by the court. The petitioner must prove that both partners have been separated post the service of the divorce petition.
The divorce will be granted by the court if the spouse initiating the divorce proves that both parties have been living separately for 6 months or 1 year. In this case, the petitioner must prove that both spouses were separated before the filing of the petition.
The above rules are applicable only to regular marriages and not in the case of a covenant marriage.
Step 4: Do it yourself divorce?
Download DIY papers
If you decide to handle your divorce on your own without hiring a lawyer, then it is extremely important that you fill out all the documents carefully and correctly. If there are any mistakes in your documents, your divorce can get delayed. You will need to go to your local judicial branch website and find the divorce forms online.
You are responsible for filing the papers in the correct place and in case you file them in the wrong place, your case can be transferred or thrown out requiring you to start the entire process again. You can use the website of the Judicial Branch of Louisiana to identify every judicial district and the courts which are included in each district.
The courts of Louisiana are organized in a different manner compared to the other states. It has 43 district, 49 city, 3 parish and 5 juvenile or family courts and you need to figure out which is the correct court where you must file your papers. Divorces are usually handled at the district courts and you must file the divorce papers in the parish in which your spouse or you live. If you have any doubts, you can clarify them with the court clerk, although they will not be able to give you legal advice.
Online Divorce Service
If you do not have a lawyer but need help with your divorce documents, you can use an online divorce service. Our favorite online divorce service is 3stepdivorce.com, and they can get you started on filing your paperwork for as little as $84. Online services will help you with the filling of your forms by giving you step-by-step instructions. The final documents will be generated based on your responses to the questions asked depending on your situation. You can then print out the forms, sign them and file them with the county courthouse. You will be charged a fee for creating your documents through their service. Using an online service is an inexpensive and quick option for document preparation and you can be done filling out your paperwork within a few hours(depending on the simplicity and your divorce being uncontested).
Hiring An Attorney
If your spouse and you do not have an agreement on the key issues of your divorce, then your case will go to trial, where a judge will hear your case and resolve the issues. In the case of a divorce trial, both spouses must hire an attorney specializing in divorce cases, who will present the case in court on your behalf, present witness testimonies, etc. a divorce trial is usually quite expensive and also takes a long time.
Step 5: Figuring out the major issues
The property that has been acquired by your spouse and you during your marriage is known as community property unless you and your spouse have a valid property agreement that states otherwise. Community property can include buildings, land, bank accounts, vehicles, civilian or military pensions or retirements, personal belongings, furniture and even debts. When either spouse files a petition for the “partition of” community property, the judge will divide all the property.
Anything that is owned by either spouse before marriage or if it has been got via personal cause of action or inheritance after marriage, is termed as separate property, which remains the property of your spouse or you. If any separate property is commingled or mixed with community property or the value of the property is enriched from the usage of the community or separate property, then the court may consider a reimbursement claim.
In Louisiana, alimony is known as spousal support and there are two kinds of spousal support – interim spousal support and final spousal support.
Interim Spousal Support: This is based on the needs of the spouse seeking support and the capability of the other spouse to pay and also the standard of living that was maintained while you were married. When the divorce is finalized, the interim support ends unless a final spousal support claim is pending. At the time of the divorce, if there is a final support claim pending, then the interim support will end along with the judgment of the final support or 6 months after the divorce, whichever is earlier.
Final Spousal Support: You can get final spousal support only in the case of a no-fault divorce. The judge will consider various factors such as the income, needs, earning capacity, means, length of your marriage and health of your spouse and you before deciding on the final spousal support. You must file for spousal support before the divorce petition is filed.
Child Custody and Support
In Louisiana, the courts would want that both the parents are actively part of the child’s life, so long that it is in the child’s best interests and the courts usually are in favor of joint custody of the child unless one of the parents presents a danger to the children. The court will consider various factors before deciding on the child support:
Gross income of both parents.
Community assets, property and debts.
Any alimony which has been awarded to one of the spouses.
Number of children that require support.
If any spouse has other minor children who require support.
Any extraordinary requirements that affect the kids needing support.
Step 6: Finalizing your Louisiana Divorce
Unless your spouse and you have lived apart and separately for a period of 6 months (if you don’t have minor children) and 1 year (if you have minor children). During this period, your spouse and you can decide on the various issues such as division of property, child custody and support, spousal support, etc. If you need any help to work through these issues, you can opt for mediation, where a trained mediator will assist you with the negotiations.
And, if you’re unable to agree on the issues, a trial will be scheduled by the court where the judge will hear your case and authorize the divorce judgment. Whether you have a divorce settlement with your spouse or the court has made a decision for you, once the judge approves your agreement or/and issues your final judgment of divorce, the terms of the court will be binding on both your spouse and you.