Posted on April 28, 2019
The Divorce Process in Louisiana Divorce (Step by Step)
The thought of going through a divorce can be stressful and daunting. Whether you are in the middle of a divorce, or just thinking about getting a divorce, it is helpful to know the steps.
The divorce process in Louisiana is relatively logical and straightforward, but can be challenging to navigate alone, particularly when emotions are running high and you need a neutral advocate looking out for your long-term interests.
If you are currently experiencing the stress of a divorce or potential divorce, our team of experienced divorce attorneys has outlined a roadmap of essential information you will need during this process.
IF YOU ARE INITIATING THE DIVORCE:
- 1. Find an experienced and knowledgeable divorce lawyer to discuss your case with.
Often, this will be someone that is familiar with your area or parish and may be someone referred to you by a friend or colleague. Having a sense of trust is essential when selecting the best lawyer for your case. Schedule an appointment with an attorney who can help guide you through the process, and protect your property and custody interests.
- 2. Prepare for your meeting.
Prior to the appointment with the attorney you should prepare questions you might have and gather documents you think may be important.
- 3. Meet with the attorney.
Explain the situation and what is important to you (custody, property, or support). Discuss your case and the potential costs of filing the petition or litigating the case.
- 4. Form an attorney-client relationship.
Review the retainer agreement provided by the attorney, ask questions, and, if you feel this is the right attorney for you, sign the agreement and pay the required retainer fee. Once the agreement is signed and the fee paid, the attorney will work on filing for divorce. This agreement also establishes an attorney-client relationship and the confidential nature that comes along with that relationship.
- 5. Supply your attorney will necessary evidence.
Your attorney will require documents and information from time to time and you should provide this information promptly and as needed to assist in moving the case along.
- 6. Consider and follow preliminary measures suggested by your lawyer.
Your attorney will advise you on certain things you must do such as opening or closing financial accounts. Additionally, the attorney will guide you through the process, providing support.
- 7. File Petition for Divorce.
After your attorney receives all requested information, they will prepare the Petition for Divorce for your review and signature. You will review the information for accuracy and completion.
- 8. Sign, file, and serve the Petition on your spouse.
After you sign the petition, the attorney will file it with the Clerk of the Court. If there are issues that need to be decided or determined right away, such as child support or custody, the attorney will obtain a hearing date.The sheriff will serve the petition and citation on your spouse, or they may sign a waiver of service and citation.
- 9. What happens if your spouse does not respond to the Petition?
If the parties have resided apart the required length of time, and no response has been filed by the other party, the attorney files a Motion for Preliminary Default. The parties must live apart for 180 days prior to filing the petition for divorce. The judge will then likely sign the Motion for Preliminary Default.Two days later, your attorney should file the Judgment of Divorce and affidavits attesting to the truth of the allegations in the Petition. When the judge signs the Judgment, your divorce is complete.Sometimes the Petition can be filed at the beginning of the separation and Judgement entered at the end of the time frame.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN SERVED WITH DIVORCE PAPERS, THERE ARE DIFFERENT STEPS TO TAKE:
- 1. Find an attorney.
Make an appointment with an attorney and do not delay in answering the Petition. Delay may cause a default judgment to be entered.
- 2. Meet with your attorney.Take the papers you have been served with to the attorney. Bring a list of questions you have as well as any documents that believe are important (including the Petition).
- 3. Form an attorney-client relationship.
Review the retainer agreement provided by your attorney, ask questions, sign the agreement, and pay the retainer fee.
- 4. Provide requested documents and follow your attorney’s guidance.
Your attorney will request information and documentation. Gather the information and provide it to the attorney as requested. Take other actions as advised by your attorney.
- 5. Prepare an Answer.
If you are contesting the divorce, the attorney prepares an Answer to the petition and pleadings for your review and signature.
- 6. File Answer.
The attorney files the Answer with the Clerk of the Court within fifteen days of service of the Petition.
What should I expect after an Answer is filed?
After the Petition and Answer have been filed, the divorce gets under way. Sometimes the parties may agree on most or all matters and there may be very few issues. In other cases, the parties do not agree on anything and hearings must be scheduled. Here are some common things to expect during divorce litigation in Louisiana:
- • There may be issues regarding custody, support and marital property;
- • With the assistance of your attorney, you need to prepare affidavits regarding your income and expenses and gather your income information;
- • Attorneys prepare discovery to send to the other party to obtain information regarding all relevant facts, and commence the process to exchange documents;
- • You and your attorney meet to review the facts of your case, identify issues, assess the strengths and weaknesses of your case and develop a strategy;
- • If some of the issues can be settled before the hearing, the attorneys will confer to discuss what agreements can be reached;
- • The court holds a hearing on the requests for relief. In certain parishes, the first hearing takes place before a hearing officer, as opposed to a judge;
- • At the hearing, the parties either reach an agreement or the judge issues an order regarding the pending issues;
- • The Judgment is prepared by one attorney, approved as to form by the other attorney, and submitted to the judge for signature;
- • If there are minor children, certain courts require that the parties attend a parent education class or participate in mediation. This is not optional, and you should keep an open mind
- • Ask your attorney for a litigation budget to help you anticipate and prepare for the overall cost of litigation. This is important as a contested divorce can be costly;
- • Confer with attorney to review facts, identify issues, assess strengths and weaknesses of your case, review strategy, and develop a proposal for settlement. Conferring with an attorney can help you see unrealistic goals and potentially save money;
- • Spouses, with support of attorneys, attempt to reach agreement through written proposals, mediation, settlement conferences, or other negotiation.
What happens if you reach an agreement on all issues?
If you reach an agreement on all issues, one attorney prepares the agreement and the opposing attorney reviews and revises the agreement. Eventually all parties sign the agreement and it is filed with the judge.
What happens if you are unable to reach an agreement?
If you are unable to reach an agreement, a motion is filed by your attorney with the court, asking that a trial date be set. A new agreement or trial retainer agreement will be discussed.
Once a trial is scheduled, the judge will issue an order to set deadlines for submitting documents to the opposing counsel, filing subpoenas, and filing motions. This assists all parties in preparing for trial.
Trial preparation can be intensive for you and your attorney. It includes preparation of witnesses, trial exhibits, legal research on contested issues, pretrial motions, trial brief, preparation of direct and cross examination of witnesses, preparation of opening statement, subpoena of witnesses, closing argument and suggestions to the court. In order to adequately prepare for trial, the attorney must spend a vast number of hours reviewing documents, developing questions, anticipating questions of opposing counsel, and creating arguments to combat opposing counsel’s arguments.
Your attorney will also prep you for trial. Preparing you for trial means that the attorney will go over potential questions that your spouse’s attorney may have. You must be prepared to answer difficult questions. Your attorney will also advise you on questions that he or she will ask of you. The attorney will prepare questions for other witnesses as well and may require your input, as you may be more familiar with some witnesses.
During the trial, the judge listens to the witnesses and arguments from both sides, and ultimately decides the case. After the judge decides the case, the attorney prepares a judgment, the other attorney approves it as to form, and it is submitted to the judge for signature. When the judge signs the judgment, you are divorced.
Going through a divorce can be difficult because it is the end of a marriage and the end of what you may have initially hoped for. However, it does not have to be scary or completely unpredictable. You will gain strength with proper guidance and direction from an experienced attorney.
If you are currently going through or considering a divorce in Louisiana, contact our office today and make an appointment for a consultation at a reduced fee to examine your case and develop a strategy to best protect your long-term interests.