A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Louisiana
If you have made the decision to file for divorce in Louisiana, having a clear understanding of the process and the decisions you’ll need to make can help you move forward with a higher degree of confidence for what lies ahead. This will help prevent mistakes down the road.
Here are some important things to know:
- Gather Important Information
- Decide How You Will Proceed With Your Divorce
- Fill Out the Necessary Forms
- File Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Louisiana
Gather important information
This is a critical step that can save you time, money and stress when you take the time to do it right. Starting early and being organized in your approach are keys to successfully completing this task. Doing so also gives you the possibility of achieving the best possible final settlement with your spouse.
To make things easy for you, we put together a great guide: The Ultimate Divorce Checklist: Everything You Need to Prepare for Divorce. Definitely check it out if you’re wondering what information you’ll need to collect.
Decide how you will proceed with your divorce
Determining what type of divorce you will pursue in Louisiana is the most important thing you will decide because it will set the framework for everything else that comes after it.
In Louisiana, you can pursue several possible options. Each one depends in large part on your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to resolve your differences.
To give you a better understanding of your divorce options, be sure to check out our guide on The Different Types of Divorce.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms
After you decide what kind of divorce you will pursue, you will need to fill out several forms and submit them to start your divorce.
An attorney can help you with this process, making sure that you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
But if you plan on completing the forms yourself, you can go to your local parish courthouse and pick up a packet of divorce papers. The forms will vary depending on your circumstances, but at the very least, you will need to complete a petition for divorce and a verification.
If you want help completing paperwork, you may be able to use Louisiana Law Help’s interactive divorce form which has an interactive interface to help prepare the right forms. It’s a free service provided by various state legal aid societies to assist you.
File Your Documents
In Louisiana, you must file forms at the parish courthouse where one spouse or the other lives. Louisiana’s trial courts handle divorces and are divided into different districts. One district can cover multiple parishes, so you need to make sure you are filing in the right courthouse.
You must then serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers to legally make them aware of the divorce petition.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
In Louisiana, there are certain requirements that must be met for service of process to be legal.
If your spouse has not hired an attorney, then you can serve your spouse directly at their home address. If they have an attorney, send the forms to the attorney instead.
If you are the petitioner and you will be serving your spouse within the state, you have three basic options:
- You can send the summons and petition to the respondent directly via certified mail, return receipt requested. When you get the receipt back, you should file it with the court as “proof of service.”
- You can ask a sheriff or a professional process server to serve your spouse “personally” by locating and physically handing the respondent a copy of the summons and petition.
- If you think your spouse will cooperate, hand deliver the documents yourself and provide a waiver of service form that must be signed by your spouse. You should then file the signed waiver of service at the courthouse.
There are other rules that must be followed if a spouse is out of state or hard to find, in the military or in jail. Contact the court for specific instructions in these cases.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Louisiana
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Louisiana?
To file for a divorce in Louisiana, a petitioner must file paperwork in a parish court and pay a filing fee. The amount will vary but ranges between $200 and $350 throughout the state. Depending on how proof of service is completed, there may be additional fees as well when using a sheriff’s deputy or a private process server.
Can divorce fees be waived in Louisiana?
You may be able to ask a judge to waive the fees associated with filings in a divorce case. You will need to demonstrate that you do not have the means to pay and complete an Affidavit to Proceed in Forma Pauperis that will be submitted to the court for consideration.
Can I file for a divorce online in Louisiana?
You can use one of several services or a private attorney in Louisiana to help you complete your forms. This is usually cheaper and faster, especially in uncontested divorces where spouses agree to work together.
Our favorite resource for a fast and effective online divorce is: 3 Step Divorce.
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However, you will need to print your forms out and then file your documents in person with the court in the parish where you or your spouse lives.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Louisiana?
With a no-fault divorce, spouses must be able to prove that they have lived apart for at least six months prior to filing for a divorce as long as there are no minor children in the marriage.
If there are minor children, then the spouses must live apart for at least one year prior to filing. Unlike some other states, in Louisiana, at least one spouse must physically move out of the marital home for the entire separation period.
In a covenant marriage, separation must be for at least one year or 18 months if there are minor children.
If a divorce is contested through a trial, or you use other means such as mediation or arbitration, it could take several additional months to resolve issues before a final judgment is entered.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Louisiana?
To file for divorce in Louisiana, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for one year prior to the filing of a Complaint.
Can I file for divorce in Louisiana without using a lawyer?
Yes. In an uncontested divorce you can complete the forms and submit paperwork on your own, as long as you and your spouse agree to work together and meet residency and living apart requirements.
Can I get a divorce in Louisiana if I am pregnant?
Louisiana does not make a wife’s pregnancy an issue when filing for divorce, but keep in mind that the state does impose a 180 day live apart requirement prior to filing if no other minor children are involved.
This is because if a divorce is finalized prior to birth, a divorce decree would have to be amended to allow for child support and visitation. The husband is the presumed father of a child born during marriage, unless paternity can be established to the contrary.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Louisiana?
There are specific rules and processes that govern how military related divorces are handled in Louisiana.
To start, you or your spouse must either live or be stationed in Louisiana so that proper jurisdiction can apply. The same grounds that apply for a civilian divorce also apply for a military divorce as well.
When a spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act. This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. However, a service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.
A division of retirement benefits are governed by the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act. This legislation directs how a former servicemember’s retirement benefits should be divided after divorce. A key element is that the former spouse must have been married to the former servicemember for a minimum of 10 years while the military member has served on active duty.
Child support and spousal support are determined by Louisiana state guidelines, but federal law dictates that these awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce