Louisiana Divorce Guide
The divorce process is long, complicated, and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. By knowing where to start, what to expect, and which issues to address, you can best position yourself to overcome many of the obstacles you may be faced with during a divorce. This guide, written byThe Louisiana Family Law Firm, will give you an overview of the process, laws, and issues surrounding divorce in Louisiana.
The First Steps
The first step in a divorce is to determine if divorce is necessary, unavoidable, or already decided. Often this answer will be clear. Often you or your spouse will have already decided on a divorce. If this is unclear, however, take steps to repair your marriage before proceeding with a divorce. Divorce should always be your last resort, not your first step.
Decide If Your Marriage Is Over
Working on your marriage is difficult, but divorce should be your last resort, not your first.
Prepare For Separation
Take a deep breath and try to understand your current financial and emotional situation. Reach out to friends, family, or counselors when needed.
Decide If You Need a Lawyer
Not every divorce requires the assistance of a lawyer, but even meeting with one once can provide you with the clarity to move forward.
Creating an Exit Strategy
Once you have decided that divorce is the best option for you and your family, or that it is unavoidable, you should begin divorce preparation. Take a deep breath and examine what you have going on. Consider your finances, your emotional state, and your resources. It can be very helpful to take the time to create an exit strategy.
1. Make a Budget
Make a projected budget. This is an important first step that will give you the clarity to understand your financial needs moving forward. Take the time to fully understand your income and expenses.
2. Protect Your Information
Protect sensitive and private information. Change your email and computer passwords along with other important login information. While you may not necessarily be doing anything wrong, divorce is an emotional time and you should protect yourself from any negative actions your spouse may intentionally or unintentionally take against you with the access they have to your private accounts.
3. Sever Financial Ties
Sever financial ties by opening your own bank account. Keep enough funds to support yourself and your children pending a divorce. Be careful not to transfer funds that could possibly belong to your spouse.
4. Keep a Journal
Keep a journal of all facts, times, dates, and events surrounding your marriage, children, and divorce. This will likely be helpful for you and your lawyer moving forward.
5. Speak With an Attorney
Speak with an attorney about your rights and get advice specific to your situation. Divorce is a complicated process. It will be very helpful to spend an hour or two getting advice about how to move forward and better work through your specific needs.
6. Talk to Your Spouse
Take the time to talk to your spouse about wanting a divorce. This will likely be a difficult conversation, but it is a necessary step. Take the time to explain, calmly and with clarity, your intentions with the divorce. This is an opportunity to mitigate the irreparable trauma and complications of the divorce.
7. Reach Out
When you are ready, reach out to your close family and friends for support. The divorce process can be long and frustrating. Those nearest to you are often the ones who can help you the most during this difficult time.
How to Choose a Divorce Lawyer
Divorces are filled with complex legal, financial, and emotional issues that vary from person to person. Therefore, you should choose an attorney who is best suited for you and your particular circumstances. To get started, you will want to choose an attorney who is experienced in family law and who has a good reputation. Reach out to friends and family to ask if they can recommend an attorney. Or visit professional websites such as LinkedIn and Avvo. These websites will provide you with information about potential attorneys, reviews, and helpful links.
Once you have identified a list of potential family law attorneys, your next step is to call the attorney’s office and ask to discuss your case. This is a great opportunity to ask about the firm’s experience, costs, and how they can assist you given your specific needs. Then, when you feel comfortable and confident with an attorney, should you hire one.
When speaking with a potential attorney, here are a few questions you may consider asking:
Do you practice family law exclusively? And have you worked with people in my situation?
What is your fee structure, or how do you typically bill clients?
About how much should this cost me? (An attorney should be able to estimate costs, even at this early stage. Do remember that this is just an estimate and may change.)
What do you think the outcome of my case may be? (Look for the attorney to be truthful and honest with any predictions, and note that it may be too soon to make such predictions.)
Who will be handling my case? Is it just you or do you have any staff?
What are my rights and obligations during this process?
What percentage of your cases go to trial vs settled?
Types of Divorce in Louisiana
No Fault Divorce
102 and 103(1) Divorce
Adultery, felony conviction, and domestic violence
Marriage Annulment - relatively null or absolutely null
The Simplest Divorce
What is the simplest way to get divorced in Louisiana?
For divorce lawyers, this is a very common question. Louisiana provides for fault and no-fault divorce options. There are three fault-based options when a spouse has (1) committed adultery, (2) been convicted of a felony and sentenced to death or hard labor, or (3) committed abuse against the spouse or a child of one of the spouses.
Most divorces pursue the no-fault option, a 102 or 103.1 divorce. Under a 102 divorce, a spouse can file a petition for divorce, alleging jurisdiction and venue, and request a judgment of divorce after the parties have lived separate and apart from the service of the petition or written waiver of service for a period of 180 days. If there are minor children in the marriage, the spouses must live separately and apart continuously for 365 days. For a 103.1 divorce, the parties must live separately apart before filing the petition. The same time periods for the 102 divorces apply to a 103.1 divorce, 180 days for couples with no minor children, or 365 days for couples with minor children. Separation by the spouses must be voluntary by at least one of the parties, so long as separation is made clear to the other party
The Divorce Process in Louisiana
Whether you are proceeding with a divorce on your own or with the assistance of our law firm, the divorce follows the same process.
The process formally begins with the filing of a petition for divorce with the clerk of court. An experienced family law attorney can assist with drafting this document, or you can use the forms made available by The East Baton Rouge Family Court. Once the documents have been properly completed and notarized, they must then be filed with the clerk of court and the required filing fee must be provided.
Your spouse must then be served. This is typically requested at the end of the petition for divorce, but it can be waived by both you and your spouse when filing. If service has not been waived, the sheriff will then give the spouse notice of your filing. Your spouse then has 15 days from the date of service to respond. You may call the clerk of court a few weeks after filing to find out if your spouse has been served.
This part of the process is typically best handled by an attorney, but it can be avoided if the spouses agree to the terms of the divorce or there are no significant complications or disputes as to the facts of the case.
4. Settlement, Negotiations, and Mediation
Following discovery, the parties will have the opportunity to settle their disagreements through negotiations between themselves, with the assistance of lawyers, or by using a professional mediator. Like discovery, this aspect of the process is not needed if the divorce is uncontested.
You will need to contact the judge’s office to schedule a court date a few weeks after service, or after the discovery period. A date will then be set and you will need to appear at the court on the assigned date and time to finalize your divorce or have your disputes heard by a judge.
6. Judgement of Divorce
At the conclusion of your trial, the judge will likely grant the divorce and sign a judgment of divorce. This may have been included in your filing or you may need to send this shortly after the trial. Once this document is signed, you are officially divorced.
Four Main Areas of Divorce
In Louisiana, there are four main areas for most divorces. Each area of divorce has its own unique challenges and requires a different approach. When hiring an attorney, ask how they can accomplish your specific goals with regard to each area of your divorce.
Child Custody defines the relationship between both divorcing parents and their minor children.
Child Support is financial support that is paid from one parent to another to help pay for the various costs associated with raising the minor children.
Dividing Assets and Property
Louisiana is a community property state where upon divorce each spouse generally shares and divides marital assets equally.
Spousal Support or Alimony
Spousal Support, also referred to as Alimony, is an allowance out of one spouse's (or ex-spouse's) separate estate for the support of the other spouse when the spouses are living separately.
The Cost of a Divorce
Understanding the cost of a divorce is very important for every client. Divorce is a complicated issue before having the added concern of hiring an attorney. Therefore it is important that you speak with your attorney about the cost of hiring an attorney when your case starts and to have the discussion as the case progresses.
Each attorney will approach answering this question differently, but you should expect your attorney to tell you it is challenging to provide an accurate estimate for a divorce upfront. The reason is that many factors contribute to the legal costs and many are outside the control of both you and your attorney. Occasionally, expenses will arise unexpectedly such as the need to hold an unplanned deposition, the hiring of forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets or the hiring of an expert custody witness.
Considering this, your attorney will be able to speak with you about the specifics of your case, and your goals, and then provide you with an estimate moving forward.
How much does a divorce cost in Louisiana?
Every case is different and each individual’s specific issues will impact the total cost of a divorce. As a general rule, factors such as the divorce being contested, the presence of minor children, and having high value assets will raise the overall cost of a divorce. Lawyers.com surveyed Louisiana attorneys and provided an estimate of the average cost of divorces in Louisiana. The found that the average Louisiana divorce cost $12,600. For divorces with minor children, this average rose to $18,900. While the survey did not include the cost for uncontested divorces, these have much lower costs than those that require a large amount of legal work. During your initial meeting with a lawyer or while interviewing potential attorneys, each should be able to estimate the potential costs for your specific divorce.
What can be done to lower the cost of a divorce?
If your divorce is uncontested, your divorce could cost you very little. However, if your divorce is contested or has any of the above-mentioned factors, the cost can quickly rise. Speak with your attorney about strategies to accomplish your goals during a divorce while also keeping costs minimal. There are many things that you and your lawyer can do to limit the expense of a divorce. This often includes pursuing mediation or a settlement to avoid long and expensive trials.
Contested vs Uncontested Divorce
What is the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce?
A contested divorce is one where the parties do not, or cannot agree to the terms of separation and divorce. This can take the form of disagreements as to custody, dividing assets, or the amount of support payments. In these instances lawyers, mediators, and judges are often needed to settle disputes and determine the terms of the divorce.
An uncontested divorce is one where the parties come to an agreement regarding all major issues of a divorce. In this instance the parties agree on how to separate and have a much simpler path to divorce. While it is recommended that the parties meet with a lawyer to review their case, it is possible for the parties to pursue a divorce largely without hiring a lawyer.
We encourage our clients to ask questions regarding their case. Sometimes the questions are common, and sometimes they are not. We do our best to answer them all. Check out our Divorce FAQ (frequently asked questions) page to see what questions are most commonly asked.
Here For You
We understand that facing or pursuing a divorce may be very challenging and likely has you feeling overwhelmed, scared, angry, or confused. Let us help. Together we can discuss your individual situation and how to begin moving you toward your goals. Then, we can discuss if working with our firm is right for you.
Contact Us Today!
What happens if spouse doesn't respond to divorce petition in Louisiana? ›
If an answer is not filed within 21 days after service of the Petition for 103 Divorce, the petitioning spouse will be able to seek a default judgment of divorce.How do I get a divorce if my husband refuses in Louisiana? ›
If your spouse is unwilling to sign agreements regarding these issues incidental to divorce, you will have to set a contested hearing with the court to hear your case and make a final determination.What is the wife entitled to in a divorce in Louisiana? ›
Generally speaking – you are entitled to half of everything obtained or acquired during the existence of your marriage (except of course if a prenuptial exists stating otherwise). This means half of the marital property (house, car, truck, boat, savings account, checking account, etc.)How can I speed up my divorce in Louisiana? ›
The fastest way to end a marriage is by seeking an uncontested divorce. However, this works best when both spouses are committed to the idea of getting out as quickly as possible. When there are no children and no property division conflicts, your divorce may proceed easily.What is an answer to divorce petition in Louisiana? ›
An answer is a legal form you (the respondent) file with the court to protect your right to have a say in the divorce. If you file an answer, your spouse cannot finish the divorce unless: you agree to and sign a Final Decree of Divorce or. your spouse gives you written notice of a contested hearing date.What can I do if my spouse ignores the divorce petition? ›
Use a court bailiff to re-serve the divorce papers to your spouse. This will incur an additional fee. It will help in the satisfaction of the court and provide enough evidence that the spouse has received the divorce papers. A process server is someone who will physically deliver legal documents to the respondent.What is considered abandonment in a marriage in Louisiana? ›
(1) The other spouse has committed adultery. (2) The other spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor. (3) The other spouse has abandoned the matrimonial domicile for a period of one year and constantly refuses to return.Can a husband deny divorce? ›
One can even seek Divorce when the other party is not willing to give divorce. This is a Contested Divorce and a petition for the same can be filed in the Court having appropriate jurisdiction. Thus, you do not need the consent of your spouse to file a Divorce Petition in the appropriate Court.Does adultery affect divorce in Louisiana? ›
Can adultery speed up divorce in Louisiana? Louisiana law does provide for an “immediate” fault-based divorce for adultery under Civil Code 103.2. However, “immediate” does not mean the judgment of divorce will be immediate. Plus proving adultery can be cumbersome, costly, and not any more beneficial to you.What is a 103 divorce in Louisiana? ›
Except in the case of a covenant marriage, a divorce shall be granted on the petition of a spouse upon proof that: (1) The spouses have been living separate and apart continuously for the requisite period of time, in accordance with Article 103.1, or more on the date the petition is filed.
Who qualifies for alimony in Louisiana? ›
In Louisiana, a divorced spouse, or an individual going through divorce, dissolution of marriage, or legal separation, may file for periodic support, otherwise known as alimony. When periodic support is applied for, there are many circumstances that are taken into consideration by the court and judge deciding the case.Will wife get alimony if she asks for divorce? ›
Monetary support for spouse
To claim alimony, the wife needs to submit not only evidence of her income and assets before the court but also evidence of monthly expenses and which she ought to make in order to maintain the same standard of living which she would have enjoyed had she been at her matrimonial place.
What if my spouse does not want a divorce? Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce by refusing to "sign the divorce papers." If you can prove that you have grounds for divorce under Louisiana law, you can get a divorce. It is the Judge and not your spouse, who decides to grant you a divorce.What are grounds for immediate divorce in Louisiana? ›
A fault-based divorce provides for an immediate divorce when one spouse can prove: The other spouse has committed adultery. The other spouse has been convicted of a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor.Can court deny divorce? ›
If under any circumstance, the consent has been forced or fraudulently obtained through duress, etc., the judge can deny the divorce petition. Improper Filing: The Indian Courts follow an exhaustive procedural code while dealing with civil cases such as adoption, matrimonial and other familial issues.How do you answer interrogation in a divorce? ›
Your answers to the interrogatories should usually be short, clear, and direct and should answer only the question that is being asked. This is not the time to set out your entire case or defense to the other side. Take the time to make sure your answers are correct and truthful.How long does it take for a divorce to be final in Louisiana? ›
A divorce judgment does not become "final" until the 30 day period to appeal the judgment has run. You should not remarry until you are sure that your divorce judgment is final. Can I get alimony in Louisiana? "Interim" spousal support.What happens when someone doesn't respond to divorce papers? ›
If you don't respond by the deadline
If you don't file a response within 30 days of getting the Petition form, your spouse or domestic partner can ask for a default. If there's a default, the court won't let you file a response and can decide the case without you.
As per the no fault divorce process, couples will be able to file for divorce or civil partner dissolution without having to place the blame on their former partner to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.What if my husband won't accept a divorce? ›
If your spouse won't engage in your divorce, then your only option for ending your marriage will have to be to go to court. Mediation will be a waste of time because your spouse won't participate. Collaborative divorce won't work. You will have to litigate your divorce.
What is emotional abandonment in marriage? ›
In the context of a marriage, the feelings of neglect, being left out, and not being heard are collectively referred to as emotional abandonment. It occurs when one partner is so preoccupied with their own concerns that they are unable to notice the struggles, concerns, or problems their partner is experiencing.Can I date while legally separated in Louisiana? ›
There's no legal requirement that you refrain from dating other people while you and your spouse are still going through a divorce. However, it's important to consider the number of ways that dating can impact your divorce proceedings. Here's everything you need to know about dating during a divorce in Louisiana.Is spouse entitled to 401k in divorce in Louisiana? ›
Pensions, IRAs, 401Ks and Retirement Plans
In Louisiana, pensions and retirement assets accumulated during marriage are considered marital property and subject to division in a divorce. Any pension or retirement funds accumulated prior to marriage or after the date of legal separation are considered separate property.
If your spouse doesn't file a response within 30 days of being served, you can ask the court for a default. This means asking the court to decide the case without your spouse's input. In a divorce by default, the court will make decisions based on the information you file and what the law says.How long do you have to answer a petition in Louisiana? ›
Effective January 1, 2022, a defendant in state court has 21 days (previously 15 days) to answer. If plaintiff serves written discovery in connection with the suit, a defendant will have 30 days to respond to the citation. This revision to Article 1001 La.What happens after the petition of divorce is filed in Louisiana? ›
What should I expect after an Answer is filed? After the Petition and Answer have been filed, the divorce gets under way. Sometimes the parties may agree on most or all matters and there may be very few issues. In other cases, the parties do not agree on anything and hearings must be scheduled.What happens if I reject divorce notice? ›
If u do not recieve and the report of process server is that u ve refused then court will consider as refusal and it will be deemed that summons are served and the court may proceed ex-parte. Which is unnecessary and you may face problem if proceeded ex-parte.