This is a complete guide to divorce in Louisiana.
In this guide, you’ll get educated on exactly how divorce works in Louisiana.
Specifically, we’ll cover the differences between divorce and legal separation, types of divorce, overview of the process, how much it costs, and a whole lot more.
So if you want to make sure you have a lay of the land (and steer clear of the landmines), we’ve got you covered.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
- The differences between divorce, annulment and separation
- What are the grounds for divorce in Louisiana?
- Deciding what kind of divorce you will go through
- The process of filing for divorce
- How to complete proof of service
- Filing for a divorce online
- Filing for divorce in Louisiana without using a lawyer
- How much does divorce cost in Louisiana?
- How long does it take to get a divorce?
- Should I retain the services of a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
- Can I cancel, refuse, contest, stop or reverse a divorce in Louisiana?
- What is a divorce decree?
- What is a divorce certificate?
- Changing Your Name
- Bonus: Recommended Resources for a Better Divorce
The difference between legal separation, annulment and divorce
Married couples can end their marriages by divorce or annulment in Louisiana. Legal separation is also permitted, but a couple is still married after a legal separation takes place. In Louisiana, legal separation is only available to couples in a covenant marriage.
When one spouse moves out of the home, couples may be physically separated, but in the eyes of the law they are not legally separated. Legal separation requires an actual court action to put certain provisions in place.
A legal separation provides a couple the option of living independently from each other both physically and financially.
Legal separation requires that things like a division of assets, child custody, and support be decided as if a marriage were actually being dissolved. It requires the execution of a document that is legally binding and signed by both spouses. Neither spouse is free to marry again until asking the court that a legal separation is converted into an actual divorce.
In many cases, legal separation provides a much-needed time out and stepping away can often bring added perspective about what a couple will lose in a marriage and possibly give them time to heal from the issues that caused their marriage to come under stress.
Spouses may also choose legal separation for religious reasons. Some religions do not look favorably upon divorce and staying married though legally separated puts less pressure on a couple who might otherwise be in conflict with their church and religious beliefs.
There are also financial benefits as well, such as being able to keep health insurance, or by continuing to file as a married couple on tax returns.
If a person is not a U.S. citizen, and they get a divorce, they run the risk of deportation. But with a legal separation, a noncitizen can still stay in the country even if they don’t live with their spouse.
Annulments can be granted in Louisiana. An annulment means that a marriage is considered null, as if it never happened.
In Louisiana, there are two types of null marriages. An “absolutely null marriage” is one that is null from the date of marriage. A “relatively null marriage” is valid until a judge declares it null.
You must have a reason for an annulled marriage in Louisiana. Acceptable grounds include:
- Bigamy – one spouse was already married
- Incest – the spouses are related as first cousins or closer
- Coercion, fraud or duress – one spouse was coerced into the marriage
- Minority – one spouse was underage at the time of the marriage
- One spouse is mentally retarded
- One spouse was intoxicated during the marriage
- One spouse was not present for the marriage ceremony
- The spouses did not have a proper marriage ceremony.
To seek an annulment, you must file a Petition to Annul Marriage in the parish where either you or your spouse live.
Divorce is a permanent and legal end to a marriage in Louisiana. All ties are severed, assets are divided, custody and alimony issues are resolved, and each spouse goes their separate way after a final decree is issued.
What are the grounds for divorce in Louisiana?
Louisiana is both a no-fault and a fault-based state when stating grounds for divorce.
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.
When a couple cannot meet the requirements for a no-fault divorce, they can file based on misconduct by one spouse or the other. Specifically, allowable grounds include if one spouse committed adultery or either spouse committed a felony. Proof and evidence must be provided in a fault-based divorce, making it a more difficult process.
Louisiana is also one of three states that allow covenant marriages. Unlike traditional marriages that are entered into with few requirements and restrictions, in a covenant marriage, a couple must undergo premarital counseling, decide in advance how they will handle divorce, and agree to attend pre-divorce counseling if they later decide to terminate their marriage.
The acceptable grounds for divorce from a covenant marriage include:
- A felony conviction
- Abandonment by one spouse for at least 12 months
- Physical or sexual abuse by one spouse toward the other, or one of the couple’s children
- Separation for at least two years
- Separation for at least one year (or, 18 months if there are minor children), from the date of separation, if the couple is legally separated.
What kind of divorce is right for you?
In Louisiana, you have several possible options that will result in a divorce.
After deciding to divorce, determining what type of divorce you will pursue is the most important thing you will decide. This creates the framework for everything else that comes after it.
The path you choose depends in large part on your relationship with your spouse and how well you can agree to work together to achieve a mutual goal.
Here are the types of divorce:
What I like to call the kitchen table divorce. This one is pretty straight forward. You don’t hire any professionals and attempt to resolve all your differences with your spouse. The biggest downside is you don’t know what you don’t know. I’d steer clear of this approach unless you don’t have kids or any money.
A far superior choice to DIY divorce. Navigating the divorce process and legal procedures can be a minefield. A good online divorce platform removes the guesswork. Through guided interviews, you’ll complete the forms while getting educated on the key legal issues in the process. This can be a great option if you have a relatively straightforward situation and you’re on the same page with your spouse.
The default option and also the most expensive. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one of the other options, then you’re headed for litigation. Litigation is an attorney-driven process. While the majority of cases settle before going to trial, that doesn’t mean litigation won’t wreak havoc on you and your kids.
Sometimes it’s the only viable option, however. If your spouse has a high-conflict personality (narcissist, borderline, etc.) or there is domestic violence, litigation might be your only option. It’s also the right choice if your primary objective is to punish your spouse. As tempting as that might be, I encourage you to think about the big picture.
Mediation: With mediation, you and your spouse retain a neutral professional (typically an attorney) to help facilitate agreement. The mediator will help you brainstorm options, understand each other’s perspectives, and make compromises to reach a resolution that you and your spouse can both live with.
Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t just mean that you and your spouse are going to work out your divorce “collaboratively.” There’s much more to it. Collaborative divorce is a structured process that takes a team approach. Divorce is much more than a legal process. It’s about money, kids, and emotions.
That’s why a Collaborative team includes collaborative lawyers, a divorce coach, and a neutral financial specialist. Unlike any other process, everyone commits not to go to court. The idea is that this removes the threat of litigation which fosters creative solutions and interest-based negotiation. It’s far and away the most supportive type of divorce.
Learn More: I’ve really just scratched the surface on the types of divorce. For a deep dive into the pros and cons of these options, be sure to check out our guide on the types of divorce.
What is the process of filing for divorce in Louisiana?
The basic processes are all pretty much the same when you start the divorce process in Louisiana, no matter which method you ultimately choose.
Gather your important information
When it comes to gathering the information you need, it’s imperative to be organized and proactive. This will give you the best chance at receiving the best possible outcome for your divorce.
Not only will this ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process, but it will also save you time, anxiety, and money (which you’ll want to save for the next parts of your divorce).
Before you jump in to collecting financial information, take the following steps:
- Open a new checking and savings account in your name alone.
- Open a credit card in your name alone.
- Order a free credit report.
- Make a list of all the assets and liabilities that you’re aware of. Include any memberships, reward points, and other perks that may be considered as assets.
If you’re in the dark about your finances, that’s okay. You and your spouse will be required to complete financial affidavits as part of the divorce process. The goal at this point is simply to begin identifying the puzzle pieces.
Okay, now it’s time to start gathering your information. Here’s a short-list of what you need:
- Tax returns (including W-2’s, K-1’s, and 1099’s) for the last 5 years
- Pay stubs for the last 3 months
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- Retirement account statements
- Pension plan statements
- Grant notice for stock options, RSUs, etc.
- Investment account statements
- Life insurance policies
- Mortgage statements
- Real estate appraisals
- Deeds to real estate
- Car registration
- Kelley Blue Book printouts (“private party value”)
- Car loan statements
- Social security benefit statement
Complete the initial paperwork
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. Don’t sign any affidavits, oaths, or sworn statements unless and until you’re in the presence of a notary.
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 forms
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.
Completing proof of service in Louisiana
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.
Can you file for divorce online in Louisiana?
You can use one of several services or a private attorney in Louisiana to help you complete your forms in an expedited manner. 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.
3 Step Divorce checks all the boxes that make an online divorce worthwhile.
They aim to make it easy – and they certainly deliver.
From step-by-step instructions to unlimited live support, here are just a few of the reasons why 3 Step is our #1 recommended online divorce resource:
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Monthly payment options as low as $84/mo
- Initial questionnaire takes less than 1 hour
- Library of free tools and resources
- Unlimited access to support agents by phone or email
- Immediate access to completed forms
- Assurance of 100% court-approval (or your money back!)
3 Step Divorce also boasts the highest customer rating in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews).
You can learn more by reading our 3StepDivorce review.
Better yet, you can Start Your 3 Step Divorce NOW (as low as $84/month).
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.
Filing for divorce in Louisiana without using a lawyer
You can file for divorce in Louisiana without using a lawyer.
If you want to pursue an uncontested divorce and you and your spouse agree on all terms, you can complete the required paperwork, cite a no-fault ground, and as long as you meet residency and living apart requirements, you can file the paperwork on your own.
How much will it cost to file?
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.
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.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Louisiana?
It depends on your circumstances.
In an uncontested divorce, there is a mandatory separation period of 6 months. If minor children are part of the marriage, then that waiting period extends to one year. 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, it could take several additional months to resolve issues before a final judgment is entered.
Should I work with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?
Couples getting a divorce in Louisiana may retain a family law attorney to help them through the process. In some cases, an attorney can handle all aspects of their case, including financial and tax implications.
But depending on your circumstances, you may need other specialists to ensure your rights are protected. Spouses with considerable assets or a degree of complexity in their finances will definitely benefit from working with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), and preferably someone who is also a Certified Financial Planner (CFP).
Additional Reading: What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (And Why You Need One)
Can I cancel, stop or reverse a divorce in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, you cannot stop someone from divorcing you if that is what they want to do.
But if you are the petitioner who filed the paperwork to start the divorce, as long as the divorce has not been finalized by the court, you can petition to withdraw the action by filing a motion to dismiss.
What is a divorce decree?
When all issues have been agreed upon, a court will issue a divorce decree. It is a final order that terminates a marriage and provides details of the rights and responsibilities of each party, including a division of assets, child custody, visitation, alimony, child support and other similar issues.
It is a legally binding document. If either party does not meet the requirements and obligations in the decree, the other party can take legal action to make sure that they do.
What is a divorce certificate?
After a divorce decree has been granted, a divorce certificate will be filed with the Louisiana Department of Health by parish Clerks of Court for divorces that took place in the state. Louisiana law requires that divorce certificates be submitted to the Vital Records Registry prior to the tenth of the month following the divorce.
The Louisiana Vital Records Registry cannot issue a certified copy of a divorce decree. You must obtain a certified copy of a divorce decree by contacting the Clerk of the Court in the parish where the divorce was granted.
Changing Your Name
As you prepare your divorce forms, you will be able to choose to either restore your former name or request a court order for changing names.
The name change will be granted as part of your divorce. You may either receive a separate court order making your name change official, or else have your name change recorded on the final divorce decree. Either of these documents are accepted with all US agencies and organizations as evidence of your name change.
Just because you have a court order does not mean your name change has taken effect. You need to contact all your organizations to request your records are updated.
It’s a long process to contact each company and figure out what to send where. To lighten the load, we recommend using an Easy Name Change kit to prevent the 10+ hours of paperwork and research that you would have to do by yourself.
Recommended Divorce Resources
Many divorce resources make promises that sound great. We’ve tried out a lot of them, and most miss the mark. A few stand tall above the rest.
We’re excited to share these tools and resources with you because we are sure that they can help you have a better divorce.
If you’re looking for recommendations in any of the following areas, we’ve got you covered:
- Online divorce
- QDRO preparation to divide retirement plans and pensions
- Masterclass on ninja tricks to negotiating with a narcissist
- Co-parenting apps
- Personal finance and budgeting apps
- Best place to sell your engagement ring
- And a whole lot more