If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Louisiana, you may have heard that the state has a unique legal system. It is the only state in the country whose legal system is based on the Napoleonic French tradition (most of the American law is descended from the British). That said, divorce is not that unique in Louisiana.
Here are some basics you should know.
Grounds for divorce
Most divorces in Louisiana, or anywhere else in the country, are granted on a no-fault basis. That simply means the couple has decided they want to split up and go their separate ways. In Louisiana, a no-fault divorce is granted when a couple without children can show they have lived separate and apart for 180 days, or when a couple with children has shown they lived separately for 360 days. This generally means one spouse has to move out, and the couple needs to live separate lives as though they were already single.
Louisiana does still recognize fault grounds for divorce. A fault divorce can have some advantages in Louisiana. A full year can be a long time to wait before getting a no-fault divorce, and a fault divorce can cut that time short. Additionally, a fault can sometimes sway the court on custody or money issues. The fault grounds in Louisiana are adultery, committing a felony, and abuse.
A divorce can be granted in Louisiana without addressing other issues related to children and money. The law gives spouses the right to request the determination of custody, visitation, or support of a child if they want. A spouse can also request support for a spouse, use of the family home or other valuables, or the use of personal property.
Many Louisiana courts have prepared materials to help couples complete their divorces as easily as possible. One spouse starts the legal process by filing a petition for divorce. The form requires some basic information about when the couple was married when they separated, and where they live.
Louisiana is a community property state, meaning that most of what either spouse acquired during the marriage is owned together as community property. That property is divided upon divorce. If the couple cannot agree on how to split it, then the court will do it for them. The split will often be right down the middle, but factors like each spouse’s income will be considered. Generally, the behavior of the spouse (adultery, for example) should not matter.
Courts resolve issues of child custody and support during a typical divorce. Louisiana has fairly straightforward guidelines for determining child support. The guidelines consider the costs of raising the child in light of the parents’ income and basically attempt to make sure that the child is living a similar lifestyle in each home. The guidelines are very helpful because they give couples an idea of what a judge will likely decide, so that makes it easier for them to agree. A judge can deviate from the guidelines, but only for specific reasons like one parent needing on the job training to get his or her income up.