Louisiana Laws for Serving Divorce Papers
By Beverly Bird
Divorce is rarely an easy process. Louisiana law streamlines it in some ways and complicates it in others. After you serve your spouse with your divorce papers, if she doesn’t file a response, the court will grant your divorce six months later with a minimum of fuss. However, if you can’t find her to have her served, the situation becomes much more complicated.
Waiver of Service
Ideally, your spouse will waive service of your divorce papers. Louisiana allows you to hand-deliver your petition to your spouse directly, if she's willing to sign a waiver of service and citation. You can then file the waiver with the court and this substitutes for service. The waiver is a short, one-page document available through legal websites or the Louisiana Supreme Court website.
Service by Sheriff
Typically, parish sheriffs hand-deliver divorce papers in Louisiana if your spouse won’t waive service. You can use the sheriff in the parish where you filed for divorce or, if your spouse lives elsewhere, you can use the sheriff in her parish. This is usually the easiest method because after you turn your divorce papers over to the sheriff, he will typically take care of everything else for you. He’ll file confirmation with the court after he’s successfully given your papers to your spouse.
Service by Other Adults
If the sheriff is unable to serve your spouse, you can ask another adult to do so, but this is where the process begins to get complicated. Louisiana law doesn’t allow you to do this without court approval. After 10 days, if the sheriff can’t serve your spouse, you must file a special motion with the court requesting permission for someone else to attempt it. Unless the individual you’ve chosen is a licensed private investigator, a judge must determine if he's qualified. If your process server is successful, he must file proof of service with the court, just as the sheriff would have done.
When You Can’t Find Your Spouse
If the sheriff or a private process server can't locate your spouse to achieve service, you might want to consult with an attorney. Alternatively, you could hire a private investigator to try to find your spouse. If your spouse hasn’t waived service of your petition or responded to it in the six-month period after you filed it with the court, the court will appoint an attorney to represent her interests at a final hearing. Generally, you must pay this attorney’s fees. Louisiana law requires that you provide the attorney with any information you have regarding your spouse’s whereabouts. The attorney will then make an effort to find her. If unsuccessful, he can arrange to serve your spouse by notification in a local newspaper or by certified mail to her last known address. The postal service will return the mail as undeliverable if she’s no longer living there so the attorney can attest to the court that she can't be found. Although other states allow you to handle service by publication on your own when your spouse is missing, only her court-appointed attorney can do so in Louisiana.
- Louisiana Supreme Court: Title IV Chapter 31 – Waiver of Service and Citation
- Louisiana State Legislature: Article 1291 – Persons Authorized to Make Service
- Louisiana State Legislature: Article 1292 – Sheriff’s Return
- Louisiana State Legislature: Article 1293 – Service By Private Person
- The Twenty-Fourth Judicial District Court: Domestic Rules
- LAWCHEK: What Is a Default?
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.