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When spouses can no longer get along, obtaining a divorce quickly is often a top priority. In Louisiana, the length of time spouses must remain separated in order to dissolve a marriage depends on whether the marriage is a covenant marriage or "standard" marriage -- and if one party can prove marital fault. Further, different separation periods apply if the divorcing couple has minor children or abuse has occurred.
Standard Divorce To obtain a divorce for a standard marriage in Louisiana, a spouse must either prove the breakdown of the marriage was the fault of the other spouse or show the couple has lived separate and apart for 180 or 365 days, depending on the circumstances.
The state uses the term "standard" to refer to marriages in which the couple did not take the additional steps required for a covenant marriage. Covenant marriages involve more of a commitment to the marriage relationship, provide limited grounds for divorce and require counseling before a divorce will be granted. The two fault grounds available to dissolve a standard marriage are adultery and the commission of a felony with a sentence of death or imprisonment.
If a spouse is successful in proving fault, no separation period is necessary. Separation Period For couples pursuing a divorce in a standard marriage on the no-fault ground of living separate and apart in Louisiana, the waiting period depends on whether minor children are present or whether abuse of a parent or child has occurred. The separation period for parties without children is 180 days. For couples with children, the separation period is 365 days, unless abuse of a parent or child has occurred, in which case separation is reduced to 180 days.
Covenant Marriage In addition to standard marriages, Louisiana also recognizes covenant marriages. These marriages are for couples who believe strongly that the marriage relationship is a lifelong commitment; the process requires couples to undergo counseling and sign a declaration of their intent to enter into a covenant marriage. This results in a more difficult process for obtaining a divorce based on separation. However, the fault-based grounds of adultery, physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, and the commission of a felony resulting in a sentence of death or imprisonment may be used to dissolve a covenant marriage and do not require a period of separation, with the exception of abandonment.
Separation Period To obtain a divorce in a covenant marriage on the grounds of living separate and apart, the waiting period depends on whether the couples have received an order of legal separation, known as a separation from "bed and board." If the parties are not legally separated, they must live apart for at least two years. If the parties are legally separated, they must wait one year from the date of the separation order, or 18 months if the couple has minor children. If abuse of a child or parent has occurred, the waiting period is reduced to only one year from the date of the order.
In cases where abuse has not occurred, couples are required to attend continuous counseling throughout the period of separation in an attempt to reconcile the marriage. An offer of membership in our legal plan is not an endorsement or advertisement for any individual attorney. The legal plan is available in most states. © LegalZoom.com, Inc. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: Communications between you and LegalZoom are protected by our but not by the attorney-client privilege or as work product.
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Legal Separation in Louisiana Much confusion exists regarding legal separation and divorce. Legal separation is a relic from Louisiana’s old fault-based divorce scheme. Now that no-fault divorce is available, legal separation is virtually obsolete. The legal grounds for divorce do generally require that the spouses live apart for a period of time.
However, this requirement is different from the concept of legal separation, which allows spouses to handle issues such as property division, alimony and child custody without legally ending the marriage. Covenant Marriages And Legal Separation Legal separation does still come into play in covenant marriages.
A covenant marriage is a unique type of legal union that couples may opt to enter under Louisiana law. In essence, it makes divorce more difficult, generally requiring fault-based grounds for ending the marriage. Those grounds include: • Adultery • Abuse • Abandonment • Chemical dependency • Criminal behavior If you are in a covenant marriage but are not able to establish legal grounds for a divorce, legal separation may be an alternative.
Legal separation is a way to establish that the relationship is ending. It is also a prerequisite for seeking divorce down the road.
Instead of having to live separately for two years before pursuing divorce, legal separation will shorten that time period.
Step-By-Step Guidance The laws in Louisiana regarding covenant marriage and legal separation are highly intricate. Because so few other states provide covenant marriage — and because covenant marriages are relatively rare — it is critical to seek guidance from an attorney with experience in this niche area. Our lawyer, Betsy A. Fischer, has the experience and insight you need to successfully navigate separation and divorce. For more than 20 years, she has provided step-by-step guidance for clients throughout Louisiana.
You can turn to our firm for trusted, reliable counsel. Contact Our Metairie Attorney Today Learn more by contacting Betsy A. Fischer, LLC. Call to schedule a private consultation.
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