Divorce is the end of a marriage. Issues of assets, debts, support and children must all be provided for in this legal process.
Should You Get Legal Help?
Getting a divorce is stressful and the legal process can be daunting. You can file your own paperwork and represent yourself in court, but a divorce attorney can be your ally during one of the hardest times of your life.
The Divorce Grounds
Louisiana recognizes both fault and no-fault divorce grounds. Additionally, you may file for divorce without grounds based on physical separation. This requires that you and your spouse live apart for more than 6 months. Most divorces are no-fault, but fault-based divorces may have a legal advantage. Fault can affect child custody issues if you and your spouse can't reach an agreement, as well as the disposition of property and debt.
Can I File in Louisiana?
You may file for divorce in Louisiana if you have resided in state for at least a year. You must file in the parish where you live, where your spouse lives, or where you last cohabited together. You must live separately from your spouse for 180 days before the court can legally grant your divorce. If you have children, you must reside apart for a year.
In addition to the costs of legal representation, several fees are associated with the divorce process. They differ depending on the parish in which you file. Fees will likely be required for filing a divorce petition, for pretrial motions, service of divorce documents, and more. Contested divorces typically cost more than uncontested matters.
The Divorce Process
The divorce process is relatively similar throughout the country:
- Divorce papers are filed.
- The defendant responds.
- Written disclosures of personal financial details are shared.
- A custody and parenting plan is submitted to the court, if applicable.
- Mediation, during which an impartial third party helps spouses come to a mutual agreement, may be attempted.
- A trial is held if spouses can't reach a settlement agreement.
Spouses may come to a mutually satisfactory agreement at any time during the divorce process. This avoids the expense and time of trial. After you reach an agreement regarding all your divorce details, the court reviews your agreement. If it signs off on it, the agreement becomes law.
Pretrial Court Orders
Pendente lite court orders temporarily address issues that arise during the divorce process. Protective orders, financial maintenance orders, support for education, healthcare orders, and child visitation schedules may be specified in pretrial motions.
Property and Debt
If you and your spouse can't agree how to divide your property and debts, the court will apportion them between you equally. Gifts or inheritances are your separate property and are not divided in a divorce. Divorce will have tax consequences. Be sure to address filing status, dependents and other deductions in your decree.
Parents usually share child custody equally. Sometimes one parent may be given sole custody if it is in the best interests of the child. A parenting plan detailing custody arrangements can be enforced if both parents agree to it and the judge deems it fair and good for the child. If parents cannot agree, the court will decide custody according to Louisiana law. Children's preferences are taken into consideration if they are old enough.
Consult a Divorce Attorney
Divorces are common, but that doesn't mean they are not complicated. Laws change regularly and emotions can get in the way. Seek a divorce attorney's advice for best representation during this stressful time.