Does Louisiana Require Separation Before Divorce?

By Wayne Thomas

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.

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.

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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.

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The Different Types of Divorce in Louisiana

References

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Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee

From attempted murder to refusal to move to the state, the law in Tennessee allows couples to claim some unique grounds for divorce. While a couple may seek a "no-fault" divorce on the basis of irreconcilable differences, the state also allows divorce for fault, which places the blame on one spouse. The Tennessee law lays out the available grounds for divorce, such as adultery, bigamy or cruelty. Whether the divorce is filed on the grounds of desertion or habitual drunkenness, the court may consider marital misconduct in deciding the final divorce decree.

The Code of West Virginia Regarding the Grounds for Divorce

West Virginia offers both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. If the parties agree on the divorce, or one spouse can prove abuse or adultery, the marriage can usually be dissolved without delay. Other grounds, such as separation and desertion, require the parties to complete a waiting period defined by law. Regardless of the grounds for divorce, the existence of marital misconduct may be considered by the court as part of spousal support and custody proceedings in West Virginia.

Divorce & Custody Laws in Louisiana

In Louisiana, the decision to get divorced is a major first step in the divorce process. However, a case may proceed only if the couple has first met the residency requirement. Next, one party must either prove marital fault or proceed under the no-fault ground of living separate and apart for a certain period of time. As part of the divorce, a Louisiana judge will divide all marital property evenly and determine custody on the basis of what is in the best interests of the child.

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