Filing for Divorce in Louisiana
Getting a Divorce in Louisiana? Divorce Law Cheat Sheet for the State of Louisiana
1. What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Louisiana?
You or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing for divorce in Louisiana.
2. Does Louisiana have a waiting period?
Yes. You must wait 365 days when you and your spouse have minor children. The wait is reduced to 180 days when you and your spouse have no minor children; when your spouse has physically or sexually abused you or your child; or when there is a protective order against your spouse to protect you or your child from abuse.
3. Does the state have grounds for divorce?
Yes. In Louisiana, you can file for divorce if:
- You and your spouse have lived separately for the periods of time specified above (180 or 365 days).
- Your spouse has committed adultery — had an affair.
- Your spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or has been imprisoned.
4. How does Louisiana determine the division of property?
You and your spouse are encouraged to come up with a settlement on your own and present it to the court. If you can’t agree, the court will divide your property for you.
Louisiana is a community property state, which means that any property acquired while you were married will be divided as equally as possible between you and your spouse. Any property acquired as a gift or inheritance and any property acquired before you were married remains your separate property.
When determining how to handle your marital home, the court will consider these factors:
- The value of you and your spouse’s property.
- You and your spouse’s economic needs and circumstances.
- The needs of your children.
- The contributions you and your spouse each made to the acquisition of the community property.
- You and your spouse’s future earning potential.
5. Does Louisiana require mediation before a divorce is granted?
Mediation is not always required, though the court may order you to seek mediation in custody or visitation disputes and put consideration of those issues on hold for as long as 30 days.
6. How does the state determine child custody?
Legal custody and physical custody are two different things. Legal custody outlines how involved each parent is in the major decisions of a child’s life — where a child goes to school, what faith he or she is raised in and other biggies.
Physical custody addresses where a child will live and with whom. Visitation is then negotiated based your physical custody arrangement.
The court will award custody based on your child’s best interest, whether that be joint custody between you and your spouse; sole custody to either of you; or, if necessary, award custody to another person able to provide an adequate and stable environment for your child.
In determining the best interest of your child, the court will weigh these factors:
- The love, affection and other emotional ties your child has with each of you.
- You and your spouse’s abilities to give your child love, affection and spiritual guidance and to continue your child’s education and upbringing.
- You and your spouse’s abilities to provide food, clothing, medical care and other material needs for your child.
- How long your child has lived in a stable environment and whether it’s best to maintain that situation.
- The stability of the family in your child’s existing or proposed home.
- You and your spouse’s moral fitness as it affects your child’s well-being.
- You and your spouse’s mental and physical health.
- Your child’s history at home, in school and in his or her community.
- Your child’s wishes, if the court decides he or she is old enough to have a preference.
- You and your spouse’s willingness and ability to encourage a close, continuing relationship between your child and the other parent.
- The distance between you and your spouse’s homes.
- The responsibility each of you previously took for the care and upbringing of your child.
The court will give reasonable visitation rights to the parent not granted custody or joint custody unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation would not be in the best interest of your child. Under special circumstances, a relative or a former stepparent or step-grandparent may be granted visitation if the court finds that it is in the best interest of your child. In determining the best interest of the child in this case, the court will consider:
- The length and quality of the relationship between your child and the relative.
- Whether your child is in need of guidance or instruction that can best be provided by the relative.
- Your child’s wishes, if the court decides he or she is old enough to have a preference.
- The willingness of the relative to encourage a close relationship between your child and you and your spouse.
- The mental and physical health of your child and the relative.
The court may name one of you the domiciliary parent — the one with whom your child lives primarily. The other parent will have physical custody that ensures frequent and continuing contact. The domiciliary parent has the authority to make all decisions affecting your child, unless the court orders otherwise. It’s presumed that all major decisions made by the domiciliary parent are in the best interest of your child.
The court may require you and your spouse to complete a court-approved seminar on the developmental needs of children, with an emphasis on fostering a child’s emotional health.
7. How does the state calculate child support?
Louisiana uses the Incomes Shares approach to child support. In families, the court reasons, the income of both parents is pooled and spent for the benefit of all household members, including the children. Each parent’s contribution to the combined income of the family represents his share of the household expenses.
This same idea is used to determine how parents will share a child support award. Both parents combine the amounts of their adjusted gross incomes. Each then determines by percentage his or her proportionate share of the combined amount.
The state guidelines include a table of support amounts. The table provides estimates of child-rearing expenses for various income levels and numbers of children in a household. The schedule is based on national averages that are adjusted to reflect Louisiana’s status as a low-income state.
The court presumes that the amount of child support set by the guidelines is the proper amount of child support. But the court may deviate from that amount if it would be unfair or would not be in your child’s best interest. The court will consider a different amount in the following situations:
- When you and your spouse’s combined adjusted gross income is not within the amounts shown on the schedule when you or your spouse is responsible for supporting children in your household who are not a part of your divorce.
- When you or your spouse is responsible for supporting children who do not live in your household, and the existing support orders for those children reduce your income below the lowest level on the schedule.
- When you have extraordinary medical expenses not otherwise taken into consideration under the guidelines.
- When you and your spouse owe some extraordinary community debt.
- When your child needs immediate and temporary support, and a full hearing is pending but can’t be held in a timely fashion.
- When one of you is permanently or temporarily totally disabled to the extent that the disability diminishes your present and future earning capacity and affects your need to save for uninsurable future medical costs and other costs such as transportation, medical expenses and higher insurance premiums.
- When any other factor means the guidelines are not in the best interest of your child or would make things unfair between you and your spouse.
Net child care costs are added to the basic child support obligation, as is the cost of health insurance premiums for your child. Extraordinary medical expenses for your child also are added to the basic child support obligation. Extraordinary medical expenses are those unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of $250 per child per year.
Other expenses for your child may be added to the basic child support obligation upon agreement by you and your spouse or by order of the court:
- Expenses for tuition, registration, books and supply fees required for attending a special or private elementary or secondary school to meet the needs of your child.
- Expenses for transportation of your child between you and your spouse.
Any income earned by your child will be subtracted from the child support obligation.
If you and your spouse have joint custody, the court will consider the period of time your child spends with the nondomiciliary party as a basis for adjustment to the amount of child support paid during that period of time. If the parent who is ordered to pay child support has physical custody of your child for more than 73 days, the court may order a credit to the child support obligation.
In determining the amount of credit to be given, the court will consider the following:
- The amount of time your child spends with the parent to whom the credit would be applied. The court will take into account the continuing expenses of the domiciliary parent.
- The increase in financial burden placed on the parent to whom the credit would be applied and the decrease in financial burden on the parent receiving child support.
- The best interests of your child and what is fair between you and your spouse.
If the custody order calls for split custody, meaning each parent is the sole custodial or domiciliary parent of at least one child who is receiving support, then each of you completes a child support obligation worksheet for the child or children in the custody of the other parent. The resulting amount is the support owed to each parent. The parent owing the greater amount of child support then owes to the other parent the difference between the two amounts.
8. How does the state determine and calculate alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is not a given. If you request alimony, the court will consider:
- You and your spouse’s incomes and assets, including how easily you can access those assets.
- You and your spouse’s financial obligations.
- You and your spouse’s earning capacities.
- How custody of your children might affect you and your spouse’s earning capacities.
- How long it would take you to obtain the education, training or employment necessary to support yourself.
- You and your spouse’s health and ages.
- How long you were married.
- Your standard of living while you were married.
- The tax consequences to each of you if alimony is awarded.
The court will only award alimony to a spouse who is not at fault in the divorce. The sum awarded cannot exceed one-third of the paying spouse’s net income. Alimony ends when the one receiving it remarries or lives with another person as if they were married, as well as if one of you dies.
The court may award one of you a sum for financial contributions made during your marriage to any education or training of the other that increased your spouse’s earning power, if you did not benefit during the marriage from that increased earning power. This may be in addition to a sum for support and to property you received in your divorce.
9. Is there a waiting period before remarriage in Louisiana?
No, you are free to remarry after the court delivers the final judgment ending your marriage.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The Louisiana state statutes are online here.
You can find the child support obligation worksheet for Louisiana here.
Louisiana’s Department of Social Services provides information online here.
Please note: Local and state laws change constantly, therefore this information is for educational purposes only. We do our best to keep state-specific information up-to-date, but please contact us to discuss your unique situation.