Louisiana state has its own unique set of divorce laws, which can be complex and nuanced. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone going through a divorce in LA.
If you are getting into a divorce in Louisiana, it is beneficial to be knowledgeable about the divorce laws. Whether you decide to hire an LA family attorney or handle the divorce yourself, you will need to make important decisions and should be aware of what to anticipate.
The courts in LA will consider various factors in the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal support, and child custody and support. Louisiana is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive dive into everything you need to know about Louisiana divorce laws and guidelines, so you make your best decision while you move along.
Types of Divorce in LA
In Louisiana, there are three types of divorce options available:
- No-Fault Divorce: This is the most common type of divorce in Louisiana. It is also known as a “dissolution of marriage.” In a no-fault divorce, neither party has to prove that the other party did something wrong. Instead, they can simply say that their marriage is irretrievably broken, and the court will grant the divorce.
- Fault Divorce: In a fault divorce, one spouse must prove that the other spouse did something wrong, such as adultery, abandonment, or abuse. If the spouse can prove fault, they may be entitled to a larger share of the marital property or alimony.
- Covenant Marriage: Louisiana is one of three states that offer covenant marriages, which are intended to be more difficult to dissolve than traditional marriages. In a covenant marriage, the couple agrees to premarital counseling, limited grounds for divorce, and a longer waiting period before a divorce can be granted. If a couple in a covenant marriage wants a divorce, they must first attempt counseling and must have one of the limited grounds for divorce, such as adultery, abuse, or a felony conviction.
Divorce rate in Louisiana
The divorce rate in Louisiana is higher than the national average. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, the divorce rate in Louisiana was 12.9 per 1,000 married individuals, compared to the national average of 7.6 per 1,000 married individuals. Additionally, Louisiana consistently ranks among the top states for the highest divorce rates.
Some reasons for the high divorce rate in Louisiana may include the prevalence of poverty and financial stress, a culture that values individualism and over-commitment, and the availability of no-fault divorce.
How to File for Divorce in LA
Divorce Process in Louisiana
Here are the general steps to file for divorce in Louisiana:
- Meet the residency requirement: In order to file for divorce in Louisiana, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months.
- Choose the type of divorce: Decide whether to file for a no-fault divorce, a fault divorce, or a covenant marriage divorce.
- Gather necessary information: Gather information about your finances, property, and children, if applicable.
- File the petition: The spouse who wants to file for divorce must file a petition for divorce with the court in the parish (county) where they or their spouse reside.
- Serve the other spouse: The filing spouse must serve the other spouse with a copy of the petition and a summons.
- Wait for a response: The other spouse has 15 days to respond to the petition. If they don’t respond, the court may enter a default judgment.
- Attend court hearings: If the divorce is contested, the spouses may need to attend court hearings to resolve issues such as child custody, property division, and alimony.
- Finalize the divorce: Once all issues have been resolved, the court will issue a final divorce decree, which ends the marriage.
Online Divorce in Louisiana
Louisiana does not currently offer an official online divorce process. However, there are online divorce services that can help simplify the divorce process for couples who meet certain criteria.
You can read our comprehensive guide about online divorce here.
Cost of Divorce in Louisiana
The cost of divorce in Louisiana can vary widely depending on several factors, including whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of the issues involved, and whether or not legal representation is needed.
In addition to attorney fees, there are several mandatory fees associated with filing for divorce in Louisiana. These fees can include a filing fee, service of process fee, and other court costs. The total cost of divorce in Louisiana can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances.
Divorce Papers and Forms LA
Louisiana requires various forms and papers to be filed in order to initiate and complete a divorce. These papers and forms can vary depending on the circumstances of the divorce, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, whether children are involved, and the assets and debts of the couple.
Some of the most common forms required in a Louisiana State divorce include a Summons with Notice or Summons and Complaint, a Verified Complaint, Affidavit of Service, and a Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in LA
Divorce is legally known as “dissolution of marriage” in LA and can be granted on both fault and no-fault grounds. Fault-based divorce requires proof of marital misconduct, while no-fault divorce does not require either spouse to prove fault. Here are the grounds for divorce in Louisiana:
- No-fault divorce: If the spouses have lived separate and apart for at least 180 days and have no minor children, or have lived separate and apart for at least 365 days, they may file for a no-fault divorce.
- Fault-based divorce: Fault-based grounds for divorce in Louisiana include adultery, a conviction of a felony and imprisonment, habitual drunkenness or drug abuse, cruel treatment, and abandonment for one year or more.
- Covenant marriage: Couples who enter into a covenant marriage must take premarital counseling and agree to certain requirements, including that they will only seek divorce under limited circumstances, such as adultery, abuse, or felony conviction.
Requirement and Waiting Period
In Louisiana, there is a waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. For a no-fault divorce, the spouses must have lived separate and apart for at least 180 days if they have no minor children, or at least 365 days if they do have minor children. For a fault-based divorce, there is no waiting period if one spouse has been convicted of a felony and is serving a sentence of hard labor, or if one spouse has physically or sexually abused the other spouse or a child of either spouse.
In addition to the waiting period, there are other requirements for obtaining a divorce in Louisiana. At least one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. If the spouses have minor children, they must complete a parenting class before the divorce can be granted.
How an LA Judge Will Divide Marital Property
Marital property in LA is divided according to the principle of community property. This means that any property acquired during the marriage, with some exceptions, is considered jointly owned by both spouses and must be divided equally in the event of a divorce.
When deciding how to divide marital property, judges in Louisiana consider several factors, including the needs of each spouse, the earning capacity and financial condition of each spouse, and the contributions of each spouse to the acquisition and maintenance of marital property.
Some assets though, such as property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, may be considered separate property and not subject to division.
Basics of Louisiana Divorce
While we have discussed major points about LA divorce, there are still some other basics that you need to know when it comes to divorce in Louisiana. Here are some of them:
Child Custody in Louisiana
In Louisiana, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. When making custody decisions, judges consider a variety of factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent, the mental and physical health of each parent, the child’s preference if they are of a certain age and any history of domestic violence or abuse.
Louisiana recognizes both joint custody and sole custody arrangements. Joint custody means that both parents share decision-making authority and physical custody of the child, while sole custody means that one parent has primary physical and legal custody of the child.
If parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child or may order a custody evaluation to gather more information about the child’s needs and living situation.
Divorce in LA Without Spouse Signature
In LA, if one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not want to sign the divorce papers, the process can still move forward. The spouse seeking the divorce can file a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Verified Complaint with the court, which the other spouse will be served with.
If the other spouse fails to respond to the court within a certain period of time, the LA court may enter a default judgment in favor of the spouse seeking the divorce. However, if the other spouse contests the divorce, the court may require a trial to determine the grounds for divorce and any related issues such as property division and child custody.
LA Child Support Guidelines
Child support in Louisiana is determined based on the income of both parents and the needs of the child. The amount of child support is typically calculated using state guidelines, which take into account factors such as the number of children and the amount of time each parent spends with the child.
In LA child support generally continues until the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. In some cases, such as if the child has a disability, child support may continue beyond this age.
Divorce Records in LA
In Louisiana, divorce records are available from the Clerk of Court in the parish where the divorce was granted. These records are typically considered public records, although access to them may be restricted in certain circumstances, such as cases involving domestic violence or child abuse.
There is usually a fee to obtain divorce records in Louisiana, which varies depending on the parish and the number of copies requested. Fees can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars, particularly for certified copies of the divorce decree.
How to Hire a Divorce Attorney in LA
Hiring a divorce lawyer in Louisiana can be a crucial decision for individuals going through a divorce. A divorce lawyer can provide legal advice and representation throughout the divorce process, ensuring that the individual’s rights and interests are protected.
When hiring a divorce lawyer in LA, you need to consider their experience, qualifications, and reputation. It is recommended to choose a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience handling divorce cases similar to your own.
The cost of hiring a divorce lawyer in Louisiana can vary depending on the lawyer’s experience and the complexity of the case. Some lawyers charge a flat fee for their services, while others charge an hourly rate. It is important to discuss the lawyer’s fees and payment options upfront to avoid any surprises later on.
Divorce in LA; Who Gets What?
In Louisiana, the property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses during a divorce based on the principle of equitable distribution. Marital property acquired during the marriage is subject to division, while some assets such as those acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gifts may be exempt. The court will make a determination if the parties cannot agree on the division of property.
What is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in LA?
In a divorce in Louisiana, a wife is entitled to a fair distribution of marital property acquired during the marriage and may also receive spousal support if she demonstrates financial need and if the court determines the other spouse has the ability to pay.
Divorce in LA with Child; How does it Work?
In a Louisiana divorce with a child, the court considers the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and support. Joint or sole custody may be awarded, and child support is determined based on a formula that considers each parent’s income and the child’s needs. A divorce lawyer can provide guidance and help ensure a fair outcome for the child.
How Long does it take to get a Divorce in LA?
The time it takes to get a divorce in Louisiana varies depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in several months, while a contested divorce can take years. There is a mandatory waiting period of at least six months. It’s important to work with a divorce lawyer to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
Louisiana divorce laws and guidelines are intricate and have a wide range of matters to be addressed. It is vital to have a good understanding of these laws in order to make informed decisions and ensure a fair outcome. By understanding these LA divorce laws, individuals can better prepare themselves for the process and take the necessary steps to protect their rights and interests.
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