Pursuing an Uncontested Divorce in Louisiana
Going through a divorce is a stressful time in anyone’s life. You may be envisioning a long process full of visits to the court and contentious battles with your former spouse. Depending on your specific scenario, it may not need to be so complicated. Many divorces can be filed as uncontested divorces, significantly reducing the cost and administrative burdens associated with securing a divorce.
Read on to learn more about what factors make a divorce uncontested in Jefferson and Orleans parishes in Louisiana.
Before you decide if you are able to pursue an uncontested divorce, it is helpful to understand some basic divorce requirements in Louisiana.
Basis for Divorce
Fault is not required to secure a divorce in Louisiana. Couples are able to secure a divorce solely based on the fact that they are living apart. There are also a few fault scenarios that qualify as a basis for divorce.
- If a couple is filing for divorce based on separation only, they must be able to demonstrate that they have lived separate and apart for at least 180 days. If the couple has minor children, they must demonstrate that they have lived apart for 365 days.
- One spouse may pursue divorce if the couple has not been separated for the required amount of time if they can demonstrate fault on the part of the other party. Acceptable fault grounds include adultery or a felony conviction. If you are filing for divorce based on fault, an uncontested result is not a viable option.
In addition to the above, Louisiana has a unique arrangement called a covenant marriage. In a covenant marriage, the couple agrees to seek marital counseling to address any issues in the marriage and places additional restrictions on seeking divorce or legal separation. If you have questions about whether you have a valid basis for your divorce, consult with an attorney.
Division of Property
Louisiana is a “community property” state. This means that any assets acquired during the marriage legally belongs to both spouses. In any divorce, the court will look to see that community property assets are equitably distributed between the two parties. Assets that were owned by either spouse prior to the marriage will be considered separate property and not subject to division in the divorce.
If couples have agreed on the distribution of community property, they can prepare a separation agreement that details their agreement on division of assets. While many copies will believe they are in agreement on assets, disputes can often arise in preparation of the separation agreement.
Child Custody and Support
Determining a parenting plan and any child support obligations can be a contentious discussion for many divorcing couples. Louisiana law requires that the primary consideration in any custody discussion be the best interest of the child. If a couple has decided on a custody arrangement, the court is likely to honor the arrangement unless there are clear reasons it would not support the best interest of the child.
The state has document child support guidelines that take into account a number of factors, including:
- The parents’ gross income;
- Community property, assets, and debts;
- Alimony awarded to either parent;
- Number of children; and
- Extraordinary needs of any child
When to Consider an Uncontested Divorce
Uncontested divorces are most common when both parties have a general agreement on all of the divorce basics discussed above. If there is a major dispute in one of these areas, it is not likely the parties will reach the mutual agreement necessary to pursue an uncontested divorce.
While not dispositive, the following factors indicate an uncontested divorce may be an option to consider:
- Both you and your spouse have agreed to get a divorce;
- You don’t have complicated assets, such as a joint business;
- You don’t have minor children or you have a clear agreement on a parenting plan; and
- You don’t anticipate any disputes throughout the divorce process.
If you decide to proceed with an uncontested divorce, the process will be relatively straightforward. You or your attorney will file a petition for divorce with the appropriate court. Determining the appropriate court in Louisiana can be confusing as it includes three parish courts. A divorce petition must be filed in the parish where you live or where your spouse lives. The correct paperwork will depend on the parish where the petition is filed.
The petition must confirm that you and your spouse have been separated for the legally required amount of time. You must also include a settlement agreement that demonstrates the parties have resolved any issues that would otherwise be in dispute. An attorney can assist you with completing the paperwork and meeting filing requirements.
Assuming the terms included in the settlement agreement are fair and reasonable, and assuming no contradictions with Louisiana law, a judge will approve and finalize the uncontested divorce.
Pros and Cons of Uncontested Divorce
There are a number of pros to an uncontested divorce, including significantly reduced costs and a much speedier resolution. Additionally, an uncontested divorce is much more likely to lead to a long-term, amicable relationship between the parties.
The primary con of an uncontested divorce is that it isn’t right for every divorcing couple. If there are disagreements either at the time of the divorce or that arise during the proceeding, the divorce is not a good candidate for an uncontested divorce. If you can’t come to an amicable resolution on any disputes, you will need to prepare for the matter to go before the court.
Contact an Attorney for Help
No matter the details, any divorce can be stressful and confusing. Whether you anticipate a drawn out dispute or an efficient, uncontested divorce, an attorney can be a helpful resource throughout the process. If you are considering filing for divorce in Jefferson or Orleans parish, contact Betsy A. Fischer, LLC, a go-to family law legal resource in the greater New Orleans area. Contact the firm today at (504) 780-8232 or at the firm’s website.