About Getting a Divorce (FAQs with video and text)
Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office)
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When do I need a divorce? When can I file for divorce in Louisiana? +
You need a divorce to end a valid marriage.
Generally, a "no-fault" divorce in Louisiana can be filed if you or your spouse has lived in Louisiana for at least 6 months. You may be able to file sooner if you have "domicile" in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, divorce is usually based on living separate and apart for:
180 days if there are no minor children (children under age 18)
365 days if there are minor children (children under age 18)
two years if you have a "covenant marriage" and you meet other requirements.
Domestic abuse, a felony conviction or adultery may allow you to file earlier in some cases.
Where can I file for divorce in Louisiana? +
You must file for divorce in the state district court for the parish:
where you or your spouse is living (legal residence or "domicile"), or
where you last lived together with your spouse (called "last matrimonial domicile").
Do I have to prove "fault"? +
No. You don't need "fault" to file for divorce in Louisiana.
A "no-fault" divorce requires spouses to live separate and apart for a specific amount of time.
The amount of time is 180 days, 365 days or two years.
Spouses in a covenant marriage must live separate and apart for two years. Most people are not in a covenant marriage.
For spouses not in a covenant marriage, the separation time depends on whether the spouses have minor children born during the marriage or adopted during the marriage. Spouses with minor children of the marriage have to live separate and apart for 365 days. Spouses without children, or with adult children, have to live apart 180 days.
But if you want to, you can ask a court to give you a divorce based on the "fault" of your spouse.
The grounds for divorce on "fault" include a felony conviction, adultery, and domestic abuse under certain circumstances.
Adultery is difficult to prove. To get an adultery divorce, a spouse must prove the time, place, and person with whom the adultery occurred. The adulterous spouse's admission or confession is not enough for an adultery divorce. The other party's testimony is not enough, either. Video or photo evidence of the adultery has to be admissible under the rules of evidence. So, it is uncommon for a self-represented litigant to try to get an adultery divorce.
Domestic abuse during the marriage supports a fault-based divorce. Also, if a protective order has been entered during the marriage, after a hearing, against one spouse to protect the other spouse or a child of either spouse, the court should grant a fault-based divorce.
Do I have to get a separation order before I get a divorce? +
No. But if you have a "covenant marriage," you may want to file for legal separation before getting a divorce. Most people don't have a covenant marriage.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Louisiana? +
It depends on things such as:
how long it takes to serve your spouse with the divorce, or;
if your spouse will waive his or her right to service, all legal delays and notice of trial. (Ask your spouse.)
Usually, it takes about 20 to 40 days after service of the divorce on your spouse to get a divorce judgment.
If your spouse waives service and legal delays, you can get a divorce judgment very quickly.
If you don't know your spouse's address, it may take months to get a divorce.
A divorce judgment does not become "final" until the 30 day period to appeal the judgment has run. You should not remarry until you are sure that your divorce judgment is final.
Can I get alimony in Louisiana? +
Alimony in Louisiana is called "spousal support." There are two types of "spousal support:"
"Interim" spousal support. This is based on your needs, the ability of your spouse to pay, and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Interim support ends upon divorce unless there is a pending claim for final spousal support. If a claim for final spousal support is pending at the time of divorce, interim spousal support ends with the final support judgment or 180 days after the divorce, whichever happens first.
"Final" spousal support. You can only get this if you were free from fault before filing for divorce. A judge will look at you and your spouse's needs, income, means, health and earning capacity, how long your marriage lasted, and other things.
These issues are not simple. So, you should talk with a lawyer about spousal support before you file for divorce. You may lose your right to get spousal support if you don't file for it in the time the law allows.
What happens to our property when we get a divorce? +
Unless you entered into a valid separate property agreement before getting married, property that either of you got during the marriage is called community property. This may include land, buildings, vehicles, bank accounts, military or civilian retirements or pensions, furniture, personal belongings and debts. A judge divides the community property after one of you files a petition for dividing ("partition of") the community property.
Separate property is anything owned by you or your spouse before the marriage or that either of you got after the marriage from inheritance or a personal cause of action. Separate property remains the property of you or your spouse. If separate property is mixed in ("commingled") with community property, or gains value (is "enriched") from the use of either community property or the separate property of the other spouse, the court can consider a claim for reimbursement.
An action for partition of the community is very complex. Before you file for divorce you should talk with a lawyer about time periods and other important issues about partition of community property.
Can I get part of my spouse's military retirement or civilian pension? +
Maybe. For military retirement it generally depends on how long you were married. Military retirement or civilian pensions may be divided between spouses in an action to partition property. But you need to discuss these issues with a lawyer before filing for a divorce. For a military pension try to find a lawyer who regularly handles that kind of case.
Can I represent myself in a divorce? +
Yes. But divorces can be complex. So get a lawyer if you can. This is even more true if there are custody, support, pension or property issues. You should definitely get a lawyer if you have a claim to your spouse's military pension. Military pension cases are very complex. You should try to find a lawyer who regularly handles military pension cases.
Can the court order a change of name? +
When a woman marries, she doesn't have to take her husband's name. It is just custom that many women do this. After a woman gets divorced, she can start using her maiden name without a court order.
But, to avoid problems, you may want to ask the court to order a change of name in the divorce judgment. A certified copy of the final judgment of divorce might make it easier and cheaper to restore your prior name on a driver's license, social security card, or other document.
What can I do if my spouse is hurting or abusing me? Do I have to get a divorce to get some help? +
Louisiana has laws that protect victims of family violence whether they are getting a divorce from their abusive partner or not. You can apply for a "protective order" to protect you and/or the children. A women's shelter, district attorney's office, court clerk's office and/or Legal Services office can help you get a protective order.
To find the shelter nearest you and get information about the services it offers, call the national hotline for domestic violence at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the Louisiana Domestic Violence hotline at 1-888-411-1333.