Area of Law:
Divorce may be defined as the legal termination of a marriage. Married couples do not have a legal or a constitutional right to seek a divorce, but states commonly grant divorces because to force a couple to stay married would be against public policy.
"No-fault" and "fault" are the two types of grounds, or justifications, for divorce in the United States. In some states, no-fault is the only acceptable justification for a divorce, even if fault grounds are present within the marriage. The other states, including Louisiana, allow the parties to select either a no-fault or a fault divorce. The Cornell University Law School website, law.cornell.edu, gives a comprehensive overview of divorce and separation law in the United States.
The United States first adopted the concept of a no-fault divorce in the late 1960's, and nearly all of the states presently allow for some form of it. A no-fault divorce is one in which the parties do not legally fault, or blame, each other for the divorce. Some examples of the justifications for a no-fault divorce include “irreconcilable differences,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “incompatibility.” In Louisiana, if one spouse wants a divorce, they have necessary grounds. Evidence of breakdown of the marriage is not a requirement for divorce in Louisiana.
If the spouses have been living separate and apart for at least 180 days prior to filing for divorce, they may obtain a no-fault divorce in Louisiana. This state has a very simplified process of obtaining a no-fault divorce, and the spouse being served with divorce papers is not even required to answer the complaint. After a motion is filed with the court, a final judgment of divorce will be awarded. To review the grounds for divorce in Louisiana, go to divorcesource.com.
Many states require a "cooling-off" period of separation for a specific length of time before no-fault divorce proceedings can begin. During this time, the couple is required to live separate and apart with the intent that the separation will become permanent. The duration of the cooling-off period varies according to state law. In Louisiana, this waiting period is 180 days.
Some states also allow fault grounds for divorce. Common fault grounds include cruelty, desertion, adultery, prison confinement, habitual intemperance (drunkenness or drug addiction), and impotency. In Louisiana, the fault grounds for divorce are adultery and conviction of a felony in which the penalty is death or imprisonment with hard labor.
To begin divorce proceedings in Louisiana, a spouse needs to file a petition for divorce in district court. The filing spouse must have been a resident of Louisiana for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. The petition needs be filed in the parish in which either spouse lives. The petition will typically be granted in 180 days, provided that the spouses have lived separate and apart during that entire time. Lawyers.com offers a full explanation of the divorce laws in Louisiana.
Divorce laws differ widely across the United States. The American Bar Association offers a variety of information regarding divorce requirements state by state on their Section of Family Law website. A chart comparing all 50 states, including Louisiana, can be found at abanet.org.
*An example of a Louisiana Divorce Settlement Agreement can be found on Free Legal Aid.