Divorce in Louisiana: everything you need to know
From filing and records to costs and more, this guide will take you through divorce in Louisiana and help you make informed decisions.
There are two types of divorce in Louisiana – fault-based and no-fault.
The median cost of divorce in the US is $7,000, but this can fluctuate massively depending on your unique circumstances.
Louisiana has a mandatory separation period of 180 or 365 days before a judge can grant a final divorce, depending on whether you have children or not.
A financial advisor can help you navigate your finances during a divorce and rebuild afterward.
What are the different types of divorce in Louisiana?
Louisiana recognizes two types of divorce: no-fault and fault-based.
A no-fault divorce means that you do not have to prove that your spouse did something wrong to end the marriage.
You have to show that you and your spouse have lived separately for a certain period, the length of which depends on whether you have children or not.
If you have children, you have to live separately for one year before filing for a no-fault divorce. If you do not have children, you only have to live separately for six months.
A fault-based divorce means that you have to prove that your spouse committed a specific ground for divorce, such as adultery, abuse, abandonment, or imprisonment.
A fault-based divorce can be faster and cheaper than a no-fault divorce, but it can also be more contentious and stressful.
You have to provide evidence of your spouse’s misconduct, which may involve witnesses, documents, or private investigators. Your spouse can also contest the allegations and try to prove their innocence.
How much does a divorce cost in Louisiana?
According to Lawyers.com, the average cost of a divorce in Louisiana is $12,600, which includes $9,800 in attorney fees and $2,800 in court costs and other expenses. However, this is just an estimate, and your actual cost may vary depending on your situation.
The cost of a divorce in Louisiana depends on several factors, such as whether you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, whether you have children or property to divide, and whether you need a lawyer or not.
Some ways to reduce the cost of a divorce in Louisiana are:
Filing for an uncontested divorce: This means you and your spouse agree on all the issues and do not need a trial.
Using mediation or arbitration: These are alternative dispute resolution methods that can help you and your spouse reach a settlement without going to court.
Representing yourself in court: You should only go down this route if you have a simple case and are comfortable with the legal process. This is not recommended if you have complex issues or need legal advice.
Shopping around for a lawyer: Different lawyers will charge different rates depending on their experience, reputation, and location. You can also ask for a flat fee or a limited scope representation, which means the lawyer only handles certain aspects of your case.
How do you file for divorce in Louisiana?
To file for divorce in Louisiana, you have to meet the following requirements:
You or your spouse must be a resident of Louisiana for at least 12 months before filing.
You must file in the parish where you or your spouse live or where you last lived together as a married couple.
You must pay a filing fee, which varies by parish but is usually around $300.
The steps to file for divorce in Louisiana are:
Fill out the divorce petition, which is the document that initiates the divorce process. You can find the forms online or at the parish clerk’s office. You have to provide information such as your name, address, date of marriage, date of separation, grounds for divorce, and whether you have children or property to divide.
Serve the divorce petition on your spouse, which means delivering a copy of the document to them personally or by certified mail. You have to provide proof of service to the court, such as a receipt or an affidavit.
Wait for your spouse’s response, which they have to file within 15 days of receiving the divorce petition. They can either agree or disagree with the terms of the divorce or request a delay or a dismissal of the case.
Negotiate a settlement, which means reaching an agreement with your spouse on the issues of the divorce, such as child custody, child support, alimony, and property division. You can do this on your own, with the help of a lawyer, or through mediation or arbitration. You have to submit a written settlement agreement to the court for approval.
Finalize the divorce, which means obtaining a judgment of divorce from the court. This can happen either by default if your spouse does not respond or participate in the process or by consent if you and your spouse agree on everything. You have to wait at least six months after filing for a no-fault divorce or at least 30 days after filing for a fault-based divorce before the divorce is final.
How do you split assets in a divorce in Louisiana?
Louisiana is one of the few states that follow the community property system, which means that most assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered to belong to both spouses equally, regardless of who earned or spent them.
This includes income, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, furniture, retirement accounts, and business interests.
The only exceptions are assets and debts that are considered separate property, which are:
Assets and debts that were owned by one spouse before the marriage or received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage
Assets and debts that one spouse acquired after a legal separation or a judgment of divorce
Assets and debts that were excluded by a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
To split the community property in a divorce, the spouses have first to identify and value all the assets and debts that belong to the community. Then, they have to either agree on how to divide them equally or let the court decide for them.
The court may consider factors such as the spouses’ contributions, needs, and liabilities, as well as the nature and source of the property. The court may also order one spouse to pay the other a sum of money to equalize the division, if necessary.
How does alimony work in Louisiana?
Alimony is not automatic in Louisiana, and it depends on the financial needs and abilities of each spouse, as well as the duration and fault of the marriage.
There are two types of alimony in Louisiana: interim and final.
Interim alimony is a temporary payment that one spouse makes to the other while the divorce is pending to cover their living expenses and legal fees.
Interim alimony is based on the needs of the requesting spouse and the ability of the paying spouse, and it does not depend on the fault of either spouse.
Interim alimony ends when the divorce is final or when the court orders otherwise.
Final alimony is a permanent or long-term payment that one spouse makes to the other after the divorce is final to provide them with financial support and prevent them from becoming destitute.
Final alimony is based on the needs of the requesting spouse and the ability of the paying spouse, as well as the length of the marriage and the fault of either spouse.
Final alimony can be awarded only if the requesting spouse is free from fault in the breakup of the marriage or if the paying spouse is at fault and the requesting spouse is not comparatively more at fault.
Final alimony can be modified or terminated by the court if there is a change in circumstances, such as remarriage, cohabitation, death, or retirement.
What happens to children during a divorce in Louisiana?
The main issues that affect children during a divorce are child custody and child support.
This refers to the legal rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding the care, control, and upbringing of their children.
There are two types of child custody in Louisiana: physical and legal.
Physical custody refers to where the children live and who provides their daily care.
Legal custody refers to who makes major decisions for the children, such as education, health, religion, and extracurricular activities.
The parents can either agree on a custody arrangement that suits their children’s needs and preferences or let the court decide for them.
This is a payment that one parent makes to the other to help cover the costs of raising their children, such as food, clothing, housing, education, health care, and recreation.
Child support is based on the income and expenses of both parents, as well as the number and needs of the children. The court will use a standard formula to calculate the amount of child support unless the parents agree on a different amount or the court finds that the formula is unfair or inappropriate.
Child support can be modified or terminated by the court if there is a change in circumstances, such as a change in income, custody, or the needs of the children.
How to protect your finances when going through a divorce in Louisiana
Going through a divorce can be a stressful and challenging time, especially when it comes to finances.
You may have many questions and concerns about how to protect your assets, manage your debts, and plan for your future.
Here are some ways you can protect your money when going through a divorce:
Organize your finances: Before filing for divorce, gather all relevant financial information and documents, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card bills, and retirement accounts. Make a list of all assets and liabilities, both marital and non-marital. This will help you and your spouse negotiate a fair distribution of property and debts.
Consider mediation: Mediation is a process where you and your spouse work with a neutral third party to resolve issues related to your divorce, such as property division, alimony, child custody, and child support. Mediation can be less time-consuming, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court. It can also help you maintain a cooperative relationship with your spouse after the divorce.
Think about Social Security: If you have been married for at least 10 years, you may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record. This can provide valuable income during retirement, especially if your ex-spouse earned more than you. However, certain criteria must be met to qualify for this benefit.
Seek professional help: Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation. Consider consulting with a financial advisor specializing in divorce to help you navigate these changes and plan for your future.
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