Simple and Complicated Requirements for a Louisiana Divorce

A lot of times when someone walks into my law office and wants a divorce, they are not exactly sure of what the requirements are to getting one.  Here in Louisiana, the requirements can range from simple to rather difficult, all depending on what exactly your personal situation is. One of the most common prerequisites to a divorce in Louisiana which people either do not know about or have yet to complete when they first talk to a lawyer about getting a divorce is the “separate and apart” requirement.  This requirement means that the spouses must live in different abodes or residences for a predetermined amount of time before the state of Louisiana will actually grant them a divorce.  The length of time which a couple needs to live “separate or apart” can vary with the circumstance, but generally the main question is simple: do you have children? If you do not have children, Louisiana law only generally requires that you and your spouse live separate and apart for one hundred and eighty days before getting a divorce legally ratified.  Not surprisingly, if you have children you are probably going to have to wait a little bit longer.  Some commentators have remarked that the longer separate and apart requirement for spouses with children is the result of public policy.  What they mean by this is that the state legislature feels that the marriage has a better chance of surviving and overcoming the desire for a divorce if you make the spouses wait a longer time to get one.  This could be considered a desirable outcome if there are children involved.  At any rate, the amount of time you need to live separate and apart if you have children is three hundred and sixty five days, or, one calendar year. The separate and apart requirements do not prevent spouses from filing for divorce, or from beginning the process of partitioning the community property (community property is the legal term for property which is shared between married people.)   If you file for divorce before the separate and apart requirement has run, that just makes it a little easier to effectuate the change when the time period has finally elapsed.  Sometimes we see couples who are fully committed to the divorce do it this way. There are some ways to get around the separate and apart requirement, but they typically involve other factors which are unpleasant, and which would make the separate and apart requirement unduly burdensome for one or both spouses.  For example, an exception to the rule is when one spouse can prove that the other spouse is adulterous.  If it is proven to the satisfaction of the court, the spouse who has been cheated on has a right to extricate themselves from the marriage quicker.