Divorce

Lake Charles Divorce Lawyers

The end of a marriage is a difficult and emotionally challenging time. It can also be a lengthy court process, especially in the case of a contested divorce. At The Johnson Firm, our Lake Charles divorce attorneys represent clients in protecting their rights and fighting for a fair resolution. 

Do You Need Grounds to Divorce in Louisiana?

Louisiana does not require grounds for divorce. This means couples can divorce based on living separate and apart, which is different from the at-fault grounds or irreconcilable differences in many states. 

The time period before a divorce can be finalized is the most important thing to be aware of when pursuing a no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce based on separation will be granted when the couple has been living apart for at least six months if there are no children or 12 months if there are children. 

In some cases, one spouse chooses to pursue a fault-based divorce in Louisiana. This involves one spouse alleging that the misconduct of the other caused the marriage to end. When seeking a fault-based divorce, Louisiana has several legal grounds for divorce, depending on whether the marriage is a covenant or non-covenant marriage. 

Louisiana is only one of three states to recognize this legally separate type of marriage in which marrying spouses agree to get pre-marital counseling and accept limited grounds to seek a divorce later. 

With a covenant marriage, grounds for divorce include: 

  • Adultery
  • Commission of a felony by another spouse and a prison sentence
  • Sexual or physical abuse of the spouse or a child
  • Spouses have lived apart for two years
  • Habitual intemperance such as drug or alcohol abuse, severe poor treatment, or cruelty

In a regular marriage, divorce can be granted if: 

  • The other spouse committed adultery
  • The other spouse committed a felony and has been sentenced to prison
  • The other spouse sexually or physically abused the divorce-seeking spouse or a child of one of the spouses
  • A protective order has been issued during the marriage against the other spouse
  • The spouses have lived separately for six months (12 months with children)

Seeking grounds for divorce may be crucial when a judge needs to make custody decisions. This is because moral fitness is a factor when determining who should have custody of a child. A parent who has been found at fault for abusing the child may be barred from receiving custody and even visitation. Grounds may also matter when it comes to spousal support. 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in Louisiana

A contested divorce is a divorce with unresolved issues on which the couple cannot agree, such as child custody, community property partition, or spousal support. With an uncontested divorce, both spouses must present their case in court before a judge decides on the issues. 

An uncontested divorce is one in which parties agree on all issues. Outside of court, both spouses can reach an agreement on issues like child custody, property partitions, and support. 

An uncontested divorce is far easier and less expensive than a contested divorce. When a divorce is contested, there are often lengthy court battles and higher attorney fees to consider. Contentious issues may also be left up to a judge rather than the spouses. This takes away your decision-making abilities, which can reduce the chance that you will receive a favorable outcome. 

An experienced divorce attorney in Lake Charles can help you negotiate with your spouse or seek mediation to reach fair terms outside of court.  However, if your case is contested, you need the best representation available to navigate the Court system. 

How a Lake Charles Divorce Lawyer Can Help

An experienced family law attorney serves as your advocate throughout the divorce process. They not only assist with paperwork and legal issues, but offer sound legal advice and help you reach an equitable agreement with your spouse. If your case needs to go to trial, it’s crucial to have a compassionate divorce lawyer on your side to build your case and present the facts, especially regarding child custody, alimony, and property division. 

At The Johnson Firm, we assist clients in all areas of divorce: 

Spousal Support 

In some cases, a judge can award lesser-earning spouses alimony or spousal support, which may continue for a brief time or even indefinitely. When deciding whether spousal support will be awarded, a judge will consider many facts. Louisiana has two type of spousal support – Interim and Final.  Interim Spousal Support is not based on fault, but rather the need and ability to pay of the parties.  

Final Periodic Spousal Support does factor in fault for the break up of the marriage.  If the other spouse committed domestic violence, the court would presume that spousal support is appropriate. The court also heavily weighs adultery and felonies. That makes proving these claims essential if you are seeking spousal support. A divorce lawyer in Lake Charles will help you build your case as to why you need spousal support as you work toward financial independence after a divorce or will help you protect your income if your spouse is seeking support from you. 

Property Division

Louisiana is a community property state. If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement on how property should be divided, a judge will attempt to split everything 50-50. This may involve selling or liquidating assets such as the family home and even a business. To avoid this, your divorce lawyer will help you reach an agreement with your spouse or present a case to the court as to why you should receive certain assets in exchange for others. 

Marital Residence

After living in a home for years, and especially raising children, what happens to the marital residence can be a contentious topic. The thought of losing your home adds stress and heartache to an already stressful experience. Many arrangements can be made for the marital residence. If both spouses are opposed to a forced sale and splitting the proceeds, and joint ownership of the home is unreasonable, there are other options. For example, one spouse may keep the house in exchange for other debts or assets in the marital estate. 

Legal Separation

Separation is a mostly obsolete tool that was used before Louisiana offered no-fault divorce. However, it does still come into play with covenant marriages in Louisiana. Covenant marriages are unique in Louisiana as they make divorce more challenging and usually require fault-based grounds due to abandonment, abuse, adultery, chemical dependency, or criminal behavior. Legal separation can be an alternative as it establishes that the relationship has ended and can be used to seek a divorce in a shorter timeframe than is usually available with covenant marriages. 

Child Custody

Louisiana courts strive for joint custody of children, giving each parent nearly equal time with the children when possible. Child custody is a complicated issue that should ideally be worked out between the parents without court intervention, however that can be a difficult process. Your divorce attorney will help you negotiate a fair parenting plan to present to the court. If an agreement can’t be reached, they’ll present your case to the judge proving why you should have physical custody or even sole custody. This is crucial if your spouse has committed domestic violence, abused the child, or has a drug or alcohol problem affecting the child’s safety and well-being. 

Child Support

While child support is determined by a formula based on each spouse’s income, assets, the child’s health care premiums, and other factors, a Louisiana divorce attorney can still be beneficial when it comes to child support issues. For example, spouses may hide or fail to report all of their income, and self-employment or business income can be challenging to predict. Your attorney will help you ensure child support is reasonably calculated. An experienced family law attorney can also help with issues such as child support modification or a non-paying ex-spouse. 

Contact a Lake Charles Divorce Attorney

If you’re preparing to file for divorce, your spouse has already filed, or you want to seek post-divorce changes to support or custody, contact The Johnson Firm today. It’s time to schedule a consultation with a passionate family law attorney in Lake Charles, LA who can help you take the next steps and become your advocate. 

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You’ll want a partner and advocate who can confidently maneuver the emotional and financial intricacies of any family law matter. From custody, child support, and community property, to adoption and prenuptial agreements, we’re committed to protecting you and the best interests of your family.