How to file for divorce in Louisiana

How do I file for divorce in Louisiana?

Often, couples considering divorce don’t understand the Louisiana legal requirements and process. When their emotions are already running high, it can be challenging to manage thesehow to file for divorce in louisiana complex systems alone.

The Johnson Firm understands that you need support in this difficult time. Our divorce attorneys provide the compassionate care you need, taking over the challenges of filing for divorce so you can start healing emotionally and attend to your family.

How to file for divorce in Louisiana?

You must meet specific requirements to file for divorce in Louisiana.

The first requirement is that you must be domiciled in Louisiana. Domiciled means that Louisiana is your habitual residence. If you have lived in Louisiana for at least six months, a presumption in the law is created that Louisiana is your domicile. 

An experienced family law attorney can help demonstrate that Louisiana is your domicile, especially in situations where you may be moving from another state. 

Additionally, in most situations, Louisiana requires spouses to have a period of separation from between six months and a year. This is a legal requirement, although it can also be used as a test period for spouses to determine if a permanent separation is what they truly desire. 

Spouses must be separated for:

  • 365 days (1 year) if they have minor children
  • 180 days (6 months) if they do not have minor children

 

If the spouses decide to cohabitate amicably at any point, the separation period resets. This is called reconciliation.

Reconciliation is covered in Article 104 of the Louisiana Civil Code, and it states that reconciliation causes the reason for divorce to be extinguished and not able to be used as a reason in future divorce filings. Reconciliation cannot be effected unless both parties resume cohabitation as well as resuming their marital status. If one party of the marriage can prove the two have reconciled, then the divorce may be prevented. Please note that proof of intimate relations is rarely enough to prove reconciliation on its own. 

 

No-Fault and Fault-Based Divorce

There are two kinds of divorce: no-fault and fault-based.

No-fault divorce refers to a divorce where the filing spouse does not need to prove any fault on behalf of the other spouse. Typically, these are due to a breakdown of the marriage or “irreconcilable differences.” This type of divorce requires the separation periods mentioned above. Spouses are not allowed to object to no-fault divorce proceedings, as an objection further supports the claim of irreconcilable differences, unless they can prove reconciliation or that the separation delays have not run. 

Fault-based divorces are less common than no-fault divorces. In these cases, the filing spouse must prove fault in the other spouse. This fault can include imprisonment, abuse, or adultery. Fault-based divorces are more complicated to organize, as the filing spouse will need extensive evidence. 

The law the types of divorce are found Louisiana Civil Code Articles 102 and 103:

Article 102 

This type of no-fault divorce states that you and your spouse:

  • Must live apart and separate for 180 days (365 if you have minor children) before the divorce can be finalized.
  • It allows you to file prior to the delays running and then finalize after your separation period has been exhausted. 

 

Article 103

In this type of divorce, you and your spouse must have already lived apart and separated for 180 days (365 if you have minor children) before you can initially file for divorce on no-fault grounds. 

This article also sets out the grounds for a fault-based divorce which are:

  • The other spouse has committed adultery, OR
  • The other spouse has commited felony resulting in the death penalty or imprisonment for hard labor, OR
  • The other spouse physically or sexually abused the other spouse or child, regardless of prosecution for such offenses, OR
  • A protective order was issued against the other spouse during divorce proceedings to protect the spouse or minor child. 

 

Documents You Need to File for Divorce 

To file for divorce in Louisiana, you will need to complete the following forms for an Article 102 divorce:

  • Petition for Divorce
  • Verification of the pleading
  • Rule to Show Cause Why Divorce Should not be Granted
  • Affidavit of Living Separate and Apart
  • Judgment 

 

In an Article 103 divorce based on separation, similar documents will be necessary.  If, however, you pursue divorce on fault based grounds.  There will be additional information needed regarding your proof of your allegations. 

The filing spouse is referred to as the “petitioner” and the other spouse is the “respondent”. These forms detail the petitioner’s reason(s) for requesting a divorce and make it valid within the courts. 

Ensure you file the forms with the correct courthouse, or else you risk your divorce being invalid. In Louisiana, the trial court is divided into different districts that cover multiple parishes. Work with a divorce attorney to ensure your forms are filed with the correct parish office. 

Make two copies of every completed form. You retain a copy and one will be served to your spouse. The originals should be filed with the courthouse. 

 

Serving Divorce Papers

Immediately after filing your petition for divorce, you must serve your spouse with the documents. “Serving” means delivering the documents to ensure your spouse is aware of the petition. This gives them the opportunity to respond to the petition, dispute an at-fault divorce petition, and attend any court hearings.

If your spouse is operating pro se (without a lawyer), you will serve these documents to their home address. If they have a lawyer, the documents can be served to the attorney’s office.

It is vital that your spouse receives the divorce papers in one of the following ways to adhere to Louisiana’s rules of service:

  • Service through the Civil Sheriff’s Office in the parish of your spouse’s residence or to the attorney’s office.  
  • By certified mail to your spouse’s home with a return receipt if they are located out of state. Once you receive the receipt, you can file it with the court as proof of service.
  • Hire a process server to personally locate your spouse and deliver the petition. They can sign an affidavit that your spouse received the documents.  This requires Court Order and Approval.
  • You can deliver the documents personally to your spouse and have them sign a waiver of service, which must also be filed with the Court.

 

In cases where your spouse is in jail, serving in the military, or unable to be located, speak with your divorce attorney about options for serving the documents.

 

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces

You now know how to file for divorce in Louisiana, and you’ve submitted your paperwork. Although you have now filed your divorce, it is not official yet. There are many other issues that divorcing couples may face.  Whether it is child-custody, spousal support, child support, property division, or another issue, you must determine if you will need to address these in the divorce proceedings.  All of these issues can be contested or uncontested in the divorce proceedings.

Uncontested divorces are significantly faster and cheaper than contested divorces, as both parties agree on the main issues of the divorce. For example, they have agreed to property distribution and custody arrangements for children. When a divorce is uncontested, your agreement will be filed and not challenged by your spouse. 

Since they do not require trial or mediation services, there are fewer legal fees to contend with and less time spent waiting for verdicts in uncontested matters.

Contested divorces are more challenging and can take longer to settle. For any number of reasons, a spouse may challenge the divorce or one of the incidental issues to the divorce such as child custody, spousal support, division of assets or more if they aren’t happy with how the divorce was laid out. Unfortunately, when a marriage breaks down, emotions run high. Sometimes people would rather fight than move on, and that’s when you need an excellent divorce lawyer to be your advocate and control the flow of information so that you can focus on healing your family. 

 

Consult a Louisiana Divorce Lawyer

Knowing how to file for divorce in Louisiana is just the beginning. A Louisiana divorce attorney can assist couples by providing a professional mediator to help them work through their differences and come to an agreement on the main issues of the divorce. 

If this does not work, then the divorce may proceed to trial, where a judge will rule on the main issues.

Hire an experienced divorce attorney in Lake Charles, Louisiana from The Johnson Firm to help with the process of filing for divorce. 

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We believe every person deserves a fair, honest, and just defense and defend clients charged with the pettiest of offenses to the most serious of crimes.

Our attorneys will thoroughly examine every detail of your case and fight to resolve any discrepancies revealed. We have a passion for the truth and will challenge anyone who attempts to obscure it.