Divorce laws in Louisiana are governed by Article 103 of the state's Civil Code. These laws establish Louisiana as a community property state, specify the length of time it takes to obtain a divorce, and detail the divorce process. To file for divorce in Louisiana, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of one year. The divorce petition must be filed in the parish where the couple last resided together.
Grounds for Divorce
To file for divorce in Louisiana, parties have the option of filing either a grounds-based divorce or a no-fault divorce. Louisiana laws regarding the "grounds," or reasons, for the divorce vary depending on the type of marriage and whether a spouse wants to allege some sort of wrongdoing.
Unlike most states, Louisiana's "no-fault" divorce option requires spouses to live apart for a specific amount of time. Spouses can pursue a no-fault divorce if:
- They have lived separate and apart for 180 days and have no minor children
- They have lived separate and apart for 365 days and have children from the marriage
Louisiana has only two fault-based grounds for divorce. They are adultery and felony conviction. If either of these apply to your situation, you do not have to wait the requisite amount of time before getting a divorce. It should be noted that an allegation of adultery can have an impact on the court's decision to award alimony.
A covenant marriage is a special form of marriage in which couples commit to being married forever. To enter into a covenant marriage, spouses must sign a declaration of intent to seek marital counseling before pursuing a divorce. Additionally, the grounds for divorce in covenant marriage are limited to the following:
- Felony conviction
- Abandonment for at least one year
- Physical or sexual abuse of the spouse or the children
- Living separate and apart for at least two years without reconciling
- Living separate and apart for one year (18 months if there are minor children) from the date of a signed legal separation
How to File
Under Louisiana law, there are two types of divorce available. These two distinct procedures, known as 102 and 103 divorces, take their names from the code sections under which they appear. To file the required forms, you need to visit your local courthouse.
A 102 divorce is available to parties who have yet to live separate and apart for the required amount of time. To begin a 102 divorce, the filing spouse must submit a Petition. Next, he or she must either serve it on the party or obtain a waiver of service. The parties must then wait until the required length of time has passed to move forward with their case. Once they have satisfied the time requirement, they must file a motion asking the court to grant their divorce.
Couples can pursue a 103 divorce if they have lived separate and apart for the required length of time. Once the petition is served on the other spouse, he or she has 15 days to respond.
It is rare to pursue a fault-based divorce, however, if you are pursuing this, you need to seek a family lawyer. Note that adultery has to be proven by two additional witnesses through a trial.
Louisiana is a community property state. This means that both spouses have an equal interest in all property acquired and an equal obligation to pay all debts accumulated during the marriage. Property acquired or debt incurred prior to the marriage, after the date of separation, or acquired during the marriage but kept separate, is not included in community property calculations.
Louisiana law permits courts to award alimony, but only in cases where the support-seeking spouse demonstrates both financial need and absence of any martial misconduct.
The state allows both final (permanent) and interim (temporary) alimony. Temporary alimony lasts from the time it is awarded by the court until it is either terminated or the final judgment of divorce entered. Permanent alimony lasts from the time of its establishment until a specified date, the death of either spouse, or the recipient's cohabitation in a situation similar to marriage.
When determining the amount of alimony, the court considers the following factors:
- The spouses' incomes and other assets
- The child custody arrangement
- Support payments, if any
- The spouses' health and age
- Each person's earning capacity
- The tax consequences of the award
- Duration of the marriage
- How long it will take the support-seeking spouse to obtain education, training, or employment
In an award for temporary alimony the court can also consider the standard of living during the marriage. The court cannot award alimony that constitutes more than one-third of the paying spouse's income. Modifications to an award of alimony can be made if either spouse's circumstances have substantially changed; this provision does not include the paying spouse's remarriage.
Child Custody and Support
When children factor into a divorce, the court must make important decisions regarding where they will live, and how the parents will take care of their financial and emotional needs.
Like most states, Louisiana favors joint custody. Louisiana courts consider the following factors when determining how custody should be awarded:
- The relationship between the child and the parents
- The parents' ability to love and guide the child
- The parents' ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material necessities
- The amount of time the child has lived in a stable environment and whether it is best to continue that environment
- The permanent nature of either parent's home
- The moral fitness of the parents
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- The child's home, school, and community history
- The child's wishes
- Each parent's willingness to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent
- The distance between the parents' homes
- The level of responsibility demonstrated by each parent toward the child
Louisiana child support guidelines dictate that both parents are responsible for contributing the child's material well-being. Support is calculated based on the parents' incomes and the number of children. The court has the authority to modify child support if the parents can demonstrate that their circumstances have changed or that support is no longer necessary.
Your Louisiana Divorce
Louisiana divorce laws are strict when it comes to the qualifications for no-fault divorces, eligibility for alimony, and the timeframes for obtaining a divorce. However, they also permit judges to make exceptions, thereby ensuring that every spouse is treated fairly.