Divorce FAQs

Can I file for a divorce without a lawyer?

Yes. The law allows you to file for a divorce without a lawyer. However, it is always better to seek the assistance of a lawyer, especially if you have children and/or community property. You should also keep in mind that neither the Judge nor the Clerk of Court's office can give you legal advice. If you decide to represent yourself, the court will hold you to the same standard as people who are represented by lawyers.

It is up to you to become familiar with the applicable law and courtroom procedures should you decide to file for a divorce without a lawyer. Consulting with a lawyer is always best, and if you qualify for such services, you may want to seek out free or reduced-fee legal aid in your area.

For help finding an attorney, please click here.

When does a marriage terminate?

Article 101 of the Louisiana Civil Code provides that marriage terminates upon: (1) the death of either spouse; (2) divorce; (3) a judicial declaration of its nullity, when the marriage is relatively null; and (4) the issuance of a court order authorizing the spouse of a person presumed dead to remarry, as provided by law. It should be noted that Louisiana no longer has an action for legal separation (except in the case of a covenant marriage).

Does Louisiana allow legal separations?

It depends. For traditional, non-covenant marriages, Louisiana no longer has an action for a legal separation. Couples that were legally separated before the action was repealed are still considered to be separated. However, for covenant marriages, which are far less common than traditional marriages, there is an action for separation from bed and board. If you are unsure if you entered into a covenant marriage, you probably did not. However, this will be noted on your marriage certificate. (See # 5.)

Legal separations are different than the physical separation which occurs when couples live separate and apart prior to obtaining a no-fault divorce. A couple can live separate and apart for purposes of obtaining a divorce, but will not be declared legally separated (unless they have a covenant marriage).

Does Louisiana have common law marriages?

No. Couples in Louisiana are not considered married unless they have obtained a marriage license and had a marriage ceremony, regardless of how long the couple has lived together. Louisiana does recognize couples as married who are considered to have a common law marriage in another state. For example, if you and your spouse have a common law marriage in another state and then move to Louisiana, your marriage may be recognized in Louisiana.

What is a covenant marriage? Do I have one?

Section 9:272 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes provides: "A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by one male and one female who understand and agree that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship. Parties to a covenant marriage have received counseling emphasizing the nature and purposes of marriage and the responsibilities thereto. Only when there has been a complete and total breach of the marital covenant commitment may the non-breaching party seek a declaration that the marriage is no longer legally recognized."

Parties to a covenant marriage must declare their intent to enter into such a marriage and obtain counseling prior to obtaining a marriage license. A judgment of divorce in a covenant marriage may not be obtained until the parties have obtained counseling. Unless you chose to have a covenant marriage, which involves completing special forms and obtaining special counseling, you likely have a traditional, non-covenant marriage.

What happens if I reconcile with my spouse?

Article 104 of the Louisiana Civil Code provides: "The cause of action for divorce is extinguished by the reconciliation of the parties." The effect of reconciliation is to wipe the slate clean to make the issue of a party's fault prior to reconciliation moot as to any subsequently filed action for divorce. This means that if you reconcile with your spouse and resume living together after living separate and apart, the time you spent living and apart prior to reconciliation will not count toward the requirements for a 103 divorce.

Reconciliation cannot be effected without cohabitation and resumption of marital status. Reconciliation is a defense, meaning that if you file for a divorce and your spouse doesn't want to get divorced, then your spouse can prevent the divorce if they can prove that you two have reconciled. Sexual activity, without resuming living together, is generally not enough to conclusively prove reconciliation.

What kinds of divorces are there? What's the difference?

The Louisiana Civil Code provides for two types of divorces for spouses in traditional, non-covenant marriages: (1) an Article 102 divorce, and (2) an Article 103 divorce. Divorces for spouses with a covenant marriage are not discussed here.

Article 102 provides for a no-fault divorce for marriages with or without minor children. Article 102 no-fault divorces are for spouses who have not yet been living separate and apart for the required waiting period, which is either 180 or 365 days. If there are no minor children, or if there is physical or sexual abuse, then the waiting period is 180 days or less. If there are minor children of the marriage, then the waiting period is 365 days. Unless adopted, children from outside the marriage do not count in factoring the necessary time to live separate and apart.

The advantage of an Article 102 divorce is that the community property will be terminated retroactively to the date of the initial filing of the petition for divorce. It also allows you to begin resolving incidental matters such as child custody, visitation rights, child support, property rights, and spousal support. These matters can be resolved either by mutual agreement between the divorcing couple or by court order if the couple cannot come to an agreement.

Article 103 provides for a no-fault divorce for marriages with or without minor children. Article 103 no-fault divorces are for spouses who have already been living separate and apart for the required waiting period, which is either 180 or 365 days as described above.

Article 103 also provides for two fault-based divorces for marriages with or without minor children. The two fault-based grounds for divorce under Article 103 are for where the other spouse has committed adultery or sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor for committing a felony. There is no waiting period for an Article 103 fault-based divorce.

This website only provides assistance with 103 divorces. For assistance with a 102 or 103 divorce, please click here to find an attorney..

What issues may be decided in a divorce case?

The court will decide the issue of termination or dissolution of the marriage. This is the legal term for divorce. The court will end your marriage and all the legal benefits that are a part of your marriage. The court can also decide incidental matters such as child custody, visitation rights, child support, spousal support (also known as alimony), and how to divide up certainly property.

Will the court appoint a lawyer for me?

Probably not. Court-appointed lawyers are usually not available in divorce cases and you do not generally have a "right" to an attorney in civil matters. Please click here to find an attorney..

What if my spouse has disappeared?

If a spouse disappears under circumstances that make death seem certain, although the body has not been found, a proceeding can be filed to have the death recognized by law, thereby terminating the marriage. If the spouse is on active duty in one of the United States' armed forces and has been reported missing under circumstances causing the armed services to accept the presumption of death, a Louisiana court may make a declaration of death.

What if my spouse does not want a divorce?

Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce by refusing to "sign the divorce papers." If you can prove that you have grounds for divorce under Louisiana law, you can get a divorce. It is the Judge and not your spouse, who decides to grant you a divorce. Even if your spouse ignores the divorce case completely, you can still ask for a divorce.

What about spousal support (also known as alimony)?

There are two types of spousal support in Louisiana: interim spousal support and final periodic spousal support. Interim spousal support may be awarded to a spouse who does not have sufficient income for his/her maintenance pending the divorce. It is designed to maintain the status quo in both spouses' living conditions, to the extent that this can be accomplished, and it may last up to six months after the date of the divorce.

Final spousal support may be awarded to an ex-spouse who has been found to be free from fault in the breakup of the marriage. It can be awarded after a determination that the spouse requesting the support has a need and the other spouse has the means to provide for that need. This can be complicated and it is best to consult an attorney.

Where should I file a petition for divorce?

The 21st Judicial District Court is located at 20180 Iowa Street in Livingston (for Livingston Parish); 369 Sitman Street in Greensburg (for St. Helena Parish); and 110 N. Bay Street in Amite (for Tangipahoa Parish). The offices are open 8am-4pm (closed between 12pm-1pm). For more information, including fees, you can call (225) 686-2216 (Livingston); (225) 222-4514 (Greensburg); and (985) 748-4146 (Amite).Please note that the Clerk of Court does not "notarize" documents, and you may need to visit a Notary Public beforehand.

What are the divorce laws in Louisiana?

When a couple decides to call it quits, they are taking steps that will change the course of the rest of their lives, also influencing their children's future as well. Understanding the process of separation and divorce may not ease the pain everyone may be feeling, but it can provide a framework that will help them plan for what comes next.

Every state has different requirements for divorce as mandated by state law. If you reside in Louisiana, you may want to find out more about how these laws govern a judge's ruling. Since financial concerns such as property division, child custody and support are a major part of a contested divorce proceeding, it is important to plan ahead in order to make informed decisions.

Are there fault and no-fault grounds for divorce?

The options for divorce in Louisiana can be either on fault or no-fault grounds. The fault-based grounds for divorce are if a spouse has committed adultery, been convicted of a felony, or been abusive against the other spouse or children. Fault will get you divorced quicker and also plays in the spousal support that a person may receive.

Most divorces fall under no-fault grounds, which in Louisiana are called either a 102 or 103. Under a 102, one spouse may file a petition for divorce and request a judgement after the spouses have lived separately for 180 days after the petition. With minor children, this time frame is 365 days. Under a 103, the parties must be separated prior to the filing of a petition for 180 days, or 365 days if there are minor children.

How does the court divide marital property?

Louisiana is one of a handful of states that follows community property laws, in which a judge will in general divide up all property that either party acquired during the marriage equally down the middle. This does not include separate property that either spouse owned prior to the marriage or that they may inherit.

When it comes to marital property, it does not matter whose name is on the title, nor does it matter if one spouse owns a business or has more assets than the other, unless the couple signed a pre- or postnuptial agreement detailing what property is not part of the divorce settlement. Louisiana courts, however, will likely accept a settlement agreement that the couple comes up with on their own or through a mediator. I highly suggest using a mediator to divide the community property. This way you get a say in how it is divided. If the judge makes the decision, you may not like the decision. Usually no one is happy with the way it is divided when a judge makes the decision.

The information on this website is provided as a courtesy by the Louisiana State Bar Association and the 33rd Judicial District Court, Parish of Allen.