Divorce – State FAQ – Louisiana
Residency requirement, venue and procedures
Q: How long must I have lived in Louisiana prior to filing for divorce in a Louisiana court?
A: Louisiana law requires that in an action for divorce that at the time of filing, one or both of the spouses must be domiciled in the state. In an action for divorce, if a spouse has established and maintained a residence in a parish of this state for a period of six months, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that he has a domicile in this state in the parish of such residence.
Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?
A: The party filing the action is called the Petitioner, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Respondent.
Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?
A: “Venue” refers to what locality the case is filed in. In Louisiana, an action for divorce can be filed in the parish where either party is domiciled, or in the parish where the spouses last lived together.
Q:What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?
A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is a Petition for Divorce, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for divorce
Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?
A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Louisiana. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.
Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Louisiana?
A: In addition to a No-Fault ground, there are three accepted grounds for divorce in Louisiana:
(1) The spouses have been living separate and apart for a period of 6 months or longer;
(2) Adultery; and,
(3) Spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment with hard labor.
A “No-Fault” divorce may be had if one spouse desires a divorce. There are no requirements to show marital breakdown, fault, living separate and apart, or any other basis for a divorce. After the filing of the petition, the divorce will be granted after a period of 180 days has elapsed from the filing date and if the spouses have lived separate and apart since the filing of the divorce petition.
Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?
A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.
Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?
A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.
Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?
A: In Louisiana, there are two types of Spousal Support (sometimes called “Alimony”).
(1) Temporary Support: Awarded to a spouse who does not have sufficient income for his or her maintenance pending the divorce. The most important factor considered by the court is the standard of living which existed during the marriage.
(2) Post-Divorce Spousal Support (a.k.a. “Permanent Alimony”): Post-Divorce Spousal Support is designed to provide the needy ex-spouse with the basic necessities of life. Post-Divorce Spousal Support can be awarded to an ex-spouse who is found to be free from fault in the breakdown of the marriage and does not have sufficient means for his or her own support.
For more on spousal support, see the Divorce Information section of the Louisiana Divorce Main Page
Q: What is “child support”?
A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).
Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?
A: Louisiana has guidelines for determining the amount of support that should be provided for one or more children. If the parents cannot agree on the amount of child support, the court will use the guidelines in determining the amount. A table containing the relevant amounts is included with your USLF divorce (with children) package.
Child custody and visitation
Q: What is child custody and visitation?
A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).
Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?
A: The court may award custody to either parent, regardless of sex, subject to the best interests of the child. In determining the child’s best interests, the court shall consider the following factors:
1. The relationship between each parent and the children.
2. The care or concern undertaken by each parent.
3. The current residence of the children and the overall effect of changing the residence.
4. The amount of time each parent can spend with the children.
5. The emotional and financial stability of each parent.
6. How each parent treats the other.
7. The expressed desires of the children (though the child is not allowed to decide, the court makes the final decision). Each case is unique, the court will make the ultimate decision in view of the “best interest of the child”.
Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?
A: Louisiana is a community property state. A spouse’s separate property, consisting of property acquired prior to the marriage and property acquired by gift or inheritance is awarded to that spouse. The community property is divided equally between the spouses. Personal property necessary for the safety and well-being of the spouse filing for divorce and any children in his or her custody (including food, eating utensils, clothing, and any other items necessary for their safety and well-being) will be awarded to the spouse filing.
Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?
A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.
Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?
A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.