How to File Your Own Divorce Papers in Louisiana
By Beverly Bird
Filing for divorce in Louisiana can be simple or complicated, depending on whether you know the whereabouts of your spouse. If you don't, you'll have to take extra steps. Otherwise, the procedure is relatively straightforward.
Gather proof that you've met Louisiana's residency requirements for divorce. You must live in the state on the date you file and have lived there for the year leading up to that date. Louisiana is a pure no-fault state. It doesn't recognize any fault grounds at all, so your spouse can't contest your divorce on the basis of the grounds you use. However, he can allege that you haven't met the residency requirement to file so you might need proof, especially if you recently moved into the state.
Determine what forms you'll need. Louisiana has three petitions for divorce: one for uncontested matters, one for contested divorces with children, and one for contested divorces without children. If you and your spouse own property, have debts and/or have children together, you'll also need an income-expense affidavit. Additionally, you'll need a child support worksheet if you have children. Louisiana has two types: one for parents who share custody and the other for parents who do not.
Download the forms you've determined you need. Some Louisiana parishes offer these divorce forms on their websites. You can also get them from an online legal document provider, but make sure they're specific to Louisiana.
Complete the forms and take them to the judicial district court in the parish where either you or your spouse lives. You'll need at least one additional copy. The clerk will accept your original documents for filing and stamp your copies as received. You'll need the copies for your own records and for service of process on your spouse.
Arrange to serve your spouse with a copy of your petition. If your divorce is contested, ask your parish sheriff to hand-deliver the papers to your spouse. The sheriff will file proof with the court when he's done so. You can also use a private process server, but you'll need permission from the court in Louisiana. If your divorce is amicable and uncontested, you can give the papers to your spouse yourself. Ask your spouse to sign a waiver of service, a form you can get from the court, and file the waiver just as you filed your petition.
Louisiana recognizes covenant marriages, a special sort of contract in which you and your spouse pledge to stay together forever. You can still be divorced, but different rules apply. If you entered into this sort of marriage, speak with an attorney to make sure you have a full understanding of the requirements you must meet to file.
If you don't know where your spouse is, you won't be able to serve him with your papers. Louisiana law doesn't allow you to serve him by publication in a newspaper. After you file for divorce, you'll have to petition the court and ask a judge to appoint an attorney to represent your absent spouse's interests in your divorce.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.