In Louisiana, there is no voodoo to filing for an uncontested divorce. In many cases, you will be able to get a no-hassle expedited uncontested divorce without ever having to appear in court. While the Louisiana divorce process in general is lengthy, filing for an uncontested divorce can speed up the process and reduce the stress involved in your divorce.
This article will explain the nature of an uncontested divorce and Louisiana uncontested divorce law. If you still have any questions after reading this article or would like to file for an uncontested divorce, you should consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
Uncontested Divorce in Louisiana Defined
Unfortunately, Louisiana does not have a special procedure for granting uncontested divorces. This means that an uncontested divorce still requires spouses to wait through the Louisiana divorce separation period. This results in Louisiana uncontested divorce taking longer than in many states. Because the mechanism for uncontested divorce is separation for a set period of time, some people call it divorce by separation.
There is some good news; however, once the separation period is completed, the court will automatically grant all uncontested divorces without a hearing or having to go to court.1 As a result, filing for an uncontested divorce might not save couples as much time as it would in other states, but it still makes the process slightly easier. This is especially true considering that court hearings are often inconvenient and stressful.
One quick note on covenant marriages: Spouses living together in a covenant marriage cannot get an uncontested divorce under Louisiana law. Unfortunately, prior to seeking a divorce, the law requires that couples living in a covenant marriage seek counseling or divorce based on one of the at-fault grounds available to covenant marriage divorcees.
Requirements for Seeking a Louisiana Uncontested Divorce
To file for uncontested divorce in Louisiana, the filing spouses must meet certain requirements. Any questions about these requirements can be answered by an experienced Louisiana divorce attorney or family lawyer.
The Louisiana Civil Code’s divorce residence requirement must be met prior to either spouse filing for divorce. Under Louisiana law, spouses seeking a divorce must live within the state for at least one year.
Next, the spouses must satisfy the grounds for divorce. Louisiana has four at-fault grounds for divorce, but these grounds cannot be used to apply for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorce in Louisiana requires that the spouses remain living separate and apart for a specific period of time.This separation period is either 180 days (where the couple did not have children) or 365 days (where the couple bore children).2 Be careful, living with your spouse during the separation period may result in the court considering your divorce “reconciled,” which would mean you need to start the separation clock over again.3 The 180-day separation clock can run from either before you file for divorce or from after you file.
Finally, the spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce. Couples seeking a true uncontested divorce should create a legally-binding separation agreement that will substitute for a judge’s ruling. At the end of the separation period, the judge will approve any agreement the spouses make so long as the agreement is fair. A fully-completed separation agreement should address all of these issues:
- Division of the property the couples shared (this would include the marital residence, vehicles, and pets);
- Division of any debt obligations between the couple jointly;
- The effect of any tax consequences of the divorce;
- Spousal support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance);
- Payment of attorneys’ fees and costs; and
- If applicable, child custody, visitation and parenting plans, and child support.
On Spousal Support and Separation Agreements
When spouses sit down to discuss the terms of their divorce, it is often beneficial for the spouses to sign a legal separation agreement. A separation agreement is NOT a formal divorce. A separation agreement is a contract between spouses that lays out their agreement and terms of their separation. A fully completed separation agreement can serve as the basis for an uncontested divorce, and may be helpful in filling out the required divorce paperwork. Prior to signing any separation agreement (or any contract with your spouse), you should have an experienced attorney review the terms of the contract for you.
The Process for Filing for an Uncontested Divorce in Louisiana
Once you and your spouse have decided to file for an uncontested divorce, the general flow of the process is as follows:
- This step is optional, but you should begin by consulting a family law attorney who can either answer any questions that you may have, or who can help you file your divorce paperwork properly.
- Second, decide when you want to file for divorce. Remember, in Louisiana, you must be separated for at least 365 days (with children; 180 days without children), but that separation period can begin either before you file for divorce or after you file for divorce. If you have been separated from your spouse for some time already, you may want to consider holding off on filing for divorce until the 365-day pre-filing period has passed. That way you won’t have to wait another 365 days after you file for divorce.
- Next, you should prepare the required divorce paperwork and agree on the terms of a separation agreement with your spouse. There are no uniform state-provided divorce forms for spouses seeking a divorce without the help of attorneys; however, both New Orleans and Baton Rouge courts provide sample divorce forms on their websites.4 Always make sure to check with the court you plan to file for divorce in before you use another court’s forms!
- Next, determine which court you should file the divorce petition in. You should file in the District Court where either spouse meets the residency requirement.
- Finally, you should file the divorce petition and separation agreement along with the fee (waivers are available). If the terms of the divorce are fair, judge will approve it and finalize the divorce after the separation period elapses.
For a basic checklist on procedure to make sure that you dotted all of your i’s and crossed your t’s, see the Fourth Judicial District Court’s uncontested divorce checklist.5
Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.
- La. C.C. Art. 102.
- La. C.C. Art. 103, La. C.C. Art. 103.1.
- La. C.C. Art. 104.
- Our Forms, .