Amicable Divorce

Straight Talk About Amicable Divorce

More and more couples approach me with inquiries about alternatives to the traditional two-attorney, court-hearing approach to divorce. Though divorce is always difficult, many couples mutually reach that decision for a multitude of various reasons and decide to part ways amicably. By the time they call me, they’ve often worked out many agreements about how they’ll care for their children and separate their finances, and they “just want to do the paperwork.”

I am both an attorney and a mediator, and I’ve worked with many couples in various ways to assist with amicable divorces. We begin with a consultation to discuss the various ways we can work together to be certain that we are all on the same page about the structure of the process and the responsibilities of each of us.
Sometimes, I represent one person as an Attorney and can therefore advise only that person, though I may meet with both parties to clarify agreements. I prepare the documents according to the agreements the parties have made, and the person who I don’t represent is responsible for bringing the papers to another attorney for a document review and consultation before signing them to be certain he/she is aware of all the ramifications of the proposed agreements.
Sometimes I work with both parties as a Mediator, usually when there are still decisions to be made, and then, serving as a Scribe, I write the documents according to the agreements the couple has made. And, because neither party has legal representation in this scenario, both parties are responsible for reviewing documents with separate attorneys before signing.
Sometimes, when a couple has worked out agreements on all issues, sometimes completely on their own, but often with the help of mediators, child specialists, counselors, and financial advisors, I serve only as a Scribe, writing their documents according to their agreements. Both parties maintain the responsibility for reviewing documents with separate attorneys before signing.
In all of the scenarios I describe above, I assist with the process, making certain the correct steps are taken and documents filed in the correct order.
Typically, costs range from approximately $2500 to $5000 for the work I do with the couple and the document preparation, and another $350 to $750 in filing fees that must be paid to the Clerk of Court when the documents are filed. This estimate includes the petition and service of process documents, a judgment of custody agreement, a judgment of property settlement agreement, and a judgment of divorce; and, it anticipates that the divorce is amicable, and that the couple has worked out agreements between themselves on major issues. Sometimes such things as retirement benefits require special, sometimes complex, additional paperwork, and such things as that are not included in this estimate.
I sign retainer agreements with clients so that we’re all clear about the nature and extent of the work we agree that I will do, and the client makes a retainer deposit. If, for any reason, the work turns out to be more complicated than anticipated and the charges for the time I spend exceeds the retainer deposit, the client may have to pay a bit more; however, if the work requires less time than anticipated, and there is money left once we’ve completed everything, the remainder is returned to the client.
I begin with a consultation in which I meet with both parties to discuss the divorce process, their particular situation and circumstances, and the various ways we can work together. A consultation usually takes about two hours, and the cost is a flat fee of $250.

New Protections and Immediate Divorce for Domestic Violence Victims

New Protections for Domestic Violence Victims

Domestic violence victims in Louisiana can now obtain immediate divorce, ongoing spousal support, expedited entry of protective orders into the state registry, greater penalties for violation of those orders, and exemplary financial awards in suits arising from injury. (Acts 315, 316 and 317 of the 2014 Regular Session.)

Two circumstances previously listed in Louisiana Civil Code Article 103.1(1) that formerly triggered the 180-day waiting period, rather than the longer 365-day period for obtaining a divorce decree, have now become grounds for immediate divorce. Proof of physical or sexual abuse of a spouse or a child of either spouse, whether prosecuted or not, or the existence of an injunction for protection of a spouse or a child of either spouse, whether by consent decree or contradictory hearing, are now the fourth and fifth grounds for immediate judgment of divorce under Article 103.

Focusing on lack of resources, the Achilles heel that hampers many victims trying to escape their dangerous situations, a new section of Article 112. mandates a final award of spousal support, leaving to the court’s discretion only whether it be periodic or lump sum, and adds the “existence, effect, and duration” of domestic violence, whether prosecuted or not, to the list of considerations for setting the amount and duration of final support. The requesting spouse must still be free of fault before the petition of divorce is filed, and in need of support. Another addition to Article 112 allows the court to set an award in excess of the one-third of the obligor’s net income, overriding the limit otherwise imposed.

A new section to Article 113 makes an exception to the current termination of interim support either upon judgment of divorce, or upon judgment on a final spousal support claim or 180 days from divorce judgment, whichever comes first.  Newly added Section C. allows spousal support at the highest set amount if judgment of divorce is rendered pursuant to Article 103(4) or (5).  If the final spousal support award does not exceed the interim support award, the interim award is extended to at least 180 days from rendition of divorce judgment, and the final support obligation begins only after interim support terminates.

Louisiana R.S. 9.327 provides that, when determining domestic abuse for spousal support, the court must consider “any criminal conviction of the obligor spouse for an offense committed against the claimant spouse during the course of the marriage,” and, in the absence of criminal conviction, allows the court to order “an evaluation of both parties” when determining “the existence and nature of the alleged domestic abuse.” The evaluation must be conducted “by an independent court-appointed mental health professional who is an expert in the field of domestic abuse,” and who has no family, financial, or prior medical relationship with any party or attorney of record. The evaluator must provide the court and the parties with a written report of findings. The legislature has neither identified nor designated funds for payment of these court-appointed evaluators, but the Legislative Fiscal Office “anticipates” that the court will assess the cost of evaluation to the litigants “based on some financial means determination” or provide the evaluation “at no cost to indigent litigants.”

Article 118 specifies that failure to file for divorce or final spousal support shall in no way affect the right of the party to seek other remedies provided by law.

“Exemplary damages,” in addition to general and special damages, are authorized by Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.8.A., with proof that injuries upon which the action is based were caused by “a wanton and reckless disregard for the rights and safety of a family or household member” through acts of domestic abuse resulting in “serious bodily injury or severe emotional and mental distress,” whether or not the defendant was prosecuted. However, if the court determines that any action alleging domestic abuse is frivolous or fraudulent, section B. allows the court, on it’s own motion or motion of a party, to award costs of court, reasonable attorney fees and “any other related costs” to the defendant, and to order any other sanctions and relief requested pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Article 863, which requires pleadings to be signed by an attorney of record or a party, and treats the signature as certification that the pleading is warranted and not for an improper purpose such as to harass.

Louisiana R.S.9:366.A. now requires a judge who signs a Uniform Abuse Prevention Order to “immediately” forward it to the clerk of court for filing “on the day that the order is issued” and requires the clerk to transmit the order electronically or by fax to the Judicial Administrator’s Office of the Louisiana Supreme Court for entry into the Louisiana Protective Order Registry, and, by the same means, to send a copy to the chief law enforcement officer of the parish where the protected person resides “as expeditiously as possible, but no later than the end of the next business day after the order is filed.”

Added to the duties and power of law enforcement officers previously enumerated in R.S. 46:2140 is the mandate to “immediately arrest” the abusing party when the officer has reason to believe that a family or household member or dating partner has been abused, and the abusing party is in violation of a protective order.

In an impressively concerted effort, the legislature further addressed the problem of violence against women and children by expanding criminal law regarding human trafficking and increasing requirements for posting national hotline information. (Acts 564, 554, 565, and 569.)

The Louisiana Women’s Policy and Research Commission 2013 Report states that

Louisiana is ranked 9th in the nation for homicides of women murdered by men. According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV), their member programs provided almost 91,000 nights of emergency shelter in 2012, and documented more than 1,800 incidents of unmet needs due to low staff and lack of shelter beds. It is heartening, therefore, to see state and local government acknowledge and make concerted protective responses to the real and tragic danger of violence in intimate relationships where there should be care and protection. Especially to be commended are members of the bench who are educating themselves, attorneys, court personnel and law enforcement officials about domestic violence.

Louisiana Community Property — The Basics

Community Property–A few key points

Community Property is:

  • The “legal regime” that governs property of married couples in the state of Louisiana
  • Established upon marriage—unless you opt out of it, you have it.
  • Terminated by death, divorce, or contract (matrimonial agreement) before or during the marriage–
    • during the marriage requires court approval but
    • married couples moving into the state have one year to do a matrimonial agreement without court approval
  • Property is classified as either community property or separate property
    • Community Property is:
      • Property acquired during the marriage (existence of the legal regime) through the “effort, skill, or industry of either spouse”,
      • Property acquired with community assets or a combination of community and separate assets,
      • Property donated to the spouses jointly,
      • Natural and civil fruits of community property, (harvests, interest, appreciation value),
      • Damages awarded for loss or injury to a community asset,
      • All other property not classified as separate property, and
      • Natural and civil fruits of separate property.
        • But, you can keep harvests, interests, revenues from mineral rights, rental revenue, royalties, etc. from becoming community property by signing a document and filing it into the conveyance records of the parish where the property is located.
      • Separate Property is:
        • Property acquired by a spouse before marriage,
        • Property acquired by a spouse with his/her own separate property,
        • Property inherited by or donated to a spouse individually,
        • Damages awarded to a spouse in certain legal actions against the other spouse,
        • A spouse’s share of community property after voluntary partition during marriage.
      • Debts can also be separate or community
      • Separate property does not automatically become community property upon marriage
  • Of course, separate and community property often gets intermingled, sometimes irretrievably. But there are rules and rights of reimbursement in some instances when:
    • Community assets are used to pay separate debt or improve separate property
    • Separate assets are used to pay community debt or improve community property
    • One spouse pays another’s school expenses just before divorce
    • Each spouse has the right to an accounting from the other spouse who managed property, but the right expires three years after the community is terminated.

Abandonment

   I am posting this because there is so much misunderstanding about “abandonment,” and I get so many questions from people who are needlessly terrified to leave dreadful or even dangerous home situations because they might be charged with “abandonment.” If you’re one of those people, I hope this will impress upon you how difficult it is to be guilty of “abandonment” under Louisiana law. Things may be different in other states and countries, but in Louisiana, threats of accusing someone of “abandonment” are usually groundless–toothless, clawless lions. The question is usually something like this: “My home situation is unbearable/dangerous, but I’m afraid to leave because my spouse might charge me with abandonment.
ABANDONMENT
“Abandonment” or desertion under Louisiana law has different definitions for different purposes: 1) Grounds for divorce, 2) Grounds for termination of parental rights, or 3) Grounds for criminal charges.
1) Grounds for Divorce
“Abandonment” as grounds for divorce pertains to divorce only in the case of a covenant marriage. Covenant marriage is a construction of the Louisiana Legislature. It requires special counseling and special documents. People who have one are very aware of it. If you have to ask what that is, you probably don’t have one.“Abandonment” is not grounds for divorce for couples with a standard marriage.
2) Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights
The things described as abandonment below often happen in tragic cases when a parent is physically or mentally ill, involved in crime, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or extremely desperate in some other way. They do not usually apply to normal, caring parents who physically separate, and one parent leaves the child with the other parent, tries to spend time with the child, stays involved with the care, schooling, and extracurricular activities of the child, and helps to financially support the child.
Under Louisiana law, parental rights can be terminated if there has been severe neglect, “abandonment,” or “desertion” of the child–severe enough to cause serious danger or damage to the child to the extent that the state (child protection services) takes custody of the child and asks a court to terminate the rights of the parent who is guilty of this behaviour.Louisiana
Circumstances That Are Grounds for Termination of Parental Rights in Louisiana
Children’s Code art. 672.1; 1015The grounds for termination of parental rights are:

– Conviction of murder of the child’s other parent
– Unjustified intentional killing of the child’s other parent
– Misconduct of the parent toward any child in the household that constitutes extreme abuse, cruel and inhuman treatment, or grossly negligent behavior below a reasonable standard of human decency
– Conviction, commission, aiding or abetting, attempting, conspiring, or soliciting to commit any of the following:

» Murder or unjustified intentional killing
» Aggravated incest, rape, sodomy, or sexual abuse
» Torture or starvation
» A felony that has resulted in serious bodily injury
» Abuse or neglect that is chronic, life threatening, or results in gravely disabling physical or psychological injury or disfigurement

– Abuse or neglect after the child is returned to the parent’s care when the child had previously been removed for his or her safety (by the state)
– Previous termination of the parent’s parental rights to one or more of the child’s siblings due to neglect or abuse coupled with unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate the parent
– Abandonment of the child by placing him in the physical custody of a nonparent or the department, or by otherwise leaving the child under circumstances demonstrating an intention to permanently avoid parental responsibility by any of the

» For a period of at least 4 months, despite a diligent search, the whereabouts of the child’s parent continue to be unknown.
» As of the time the petition is filed, the parent has failed to provide significant contributions to the child’s care and support for any period of 6 consecutive months.
» As of the time the petition is filed, the parent has failed to maintain significant contact with the child by visiting him or communicating with him for any period of 6 consecutive months.

OR, in the case of a parent who has remarried and the step-parent wants to adopt the ​child.

If​ a parent has refused or failed to comply with a court order regarding support for a period of six months, or if that parent has refused or failed to visit, communicate, or attempt to communicate with the child without just cause for a period of at least six months, then the court can decide that their consent to the adoption is not necessary. If​ ​the parent who wants the adoption to take place is not sure where the child’s parent currently is, the court can appoint a curator ad hoc. A curator ad hoc is an attorney who will try to find the parent so they can be properly served with the adoption

Notice that this says the court “can decide.” Termination of parental rights is never automatic. It must be done by a court, and courts are very reluctant to terminate parental rights. Notice that the “missing” parent is protected by the court appointing someone to try to locate him or her. Courts are familiar with human conflicts and problems and usually give a parent every chance it can before ordering termination.​

3) Criminal Neglect, Abandonment, or Desertion of a Child–and the Consequences

Child Neglect
Louisiana defines child neglect as the failure or refusal of a parent or guardian to provide necessary clothing, food, shelter, care, counseling or treatment for any illness, injury or condition that result in a child’s health and safety being threatened or impaired.

Child Abandonment
Louisiana defines criminal abandonment as leaving a child under 10 years old without adult supervision. Evidence must show the parent did not intend to provide for supervision of the child or intend to return to the child. A parent who commits criminal abandonment can be fined up to $1,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to one year.

Child Desertion
Desertion, according to Louisiana law, is exposing a child under 10 to hazardous conditions from which the child could not reasonably protect himself, either intentionally or through negligence. A first offense of desertion is punishable by a fine of $500 and/or six months imprisonment. A second offense is punishable by a minimum of 30 days imprisonment to a maximum of six months and a fine of $500. This 30-day minimum sentence cannot be suspended or served on probation.

Criminal Neglect of Family
If a parent leaves a minor child without means of support for more than 30 days, this is considered criminal neglect of family. This offense is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of $500. If this fine is not paid, the offending party can be placed on criminal probation.

Conclusion:  Avoiding Vulnerability to Charges of Abandonment

– It is very unlikely that you’d be charged with abandonment or desertion if your reason for leaving is the high level of conflict between you and your spouse, or that you are voluntarily separating to “give each other some space” to see if you can work things out, or because you’re contemplating divorce.

– If you have children under the age of 18, each parent should always have contact information of the other parent in case you need to get in touch because of emergency or just to discuss plans and concerns about your children.

– If either parent intends to take the child on a weekend trip or vacation, of if a parent moves, the traveling or moving parent should notify the other parent and always let the other know where the child will be (name and telephone number of hotel, address of new home, address of relatives with whom you’ll be staying, etc.). Each parent should have the other’s current cell phone number and an e-mail address and each should be diligent about answering calls from the other. (You never know when your Ex, whom you would really prefer never to see again, may be trying to contact you because your child has had a serious accident.)

– If you maintain contact with your spouse and children, let them know your whereabouts and how to get in touch with you, continue to provide financially for your children–perhaps continue paying the rent or mortgage note so your children have a place to live, and to provide her money for food and necessities for the child–you have not deserted them.

You would really have to go away and not be heard from for a year or more and fail to provide any financial support to be vulnerable to charges of abandonment. And, you have to intend to leave your family behind, unsupported and wondering where you are. 

Link

Louisiana 103 Divorce Forms (Already lived apart requisite time)

There is always danger in doing things yourself for which professional help is normally required. Diagnosing and treating your own medical problems and doing your own legal work are among those things. While it may seem so simple–a matter of just filling out the forms–the danger lies is the complexities you may not be aware of. What does it mean if I agree to let my spouse have “sole custody?” What is the difference between “shared custody” and “joint custody?” What are possible consequences when we sell our house ten years from now if my spouse agrees to let me and the kids stay in the house all that time and he pays the note? (Most of these questions are addressed in other posts on this website.)

It is always a good idea to spend the $200 to $300 for a consultation with an attorney. If your issues are more complicated than you think they are, the cost of a consultation will save you time, money and grief in the long run. It’s a good investment.

However, if a couple has grown children, has lived separately for years, each rents his/her own place, has no retirement benefits or investment accounts, owns no real property (land, houses, camps, etc. i.e. “immovable property”), and has already divided what they have (i.e. “movable property”), and both just want to get a divorce without getting attorneys involved, it is becoming possible. Courts are opening up to the reality of these situations after all the economic upheavals in recent years. Some provide assistance through self-help programs and fill-in-the-blank forms.

East Baton Rouge Family Court, realizing that more and more people want a simple, inexpensive divorce, has posted forms and instructions on their website for several issues including divorce based on Louisiana Civil Code Article 103, for use when a married couple has already voluntarily lived separately and apart for the requisite amount of time: 365 days if there are children under the age of 18; 180 days if there are no children under age 18.

You can also find these forms posted below and you should be able to view and print them out. WARNING: These forms are formatted for printing on legal-size paper, NOT regular (8 ½ X 11 ½ inch paper). If you print them on regular-size paper, parts will be cut off and the forms will be incomplete.

Other issues for which forms are available are child custody and modification of child support. There are also instructional videos on child support, change of child support, and paternity.

WARNING: If you do not live in Louisiana, these forms may not be appropriate or adequate for obtaining a divorce in your state. If you live in Louisiana but not in East Baton Rouge Parish, you will need to correct the heading at the top of the Petition.

Here is the link for the forms on the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court website under the Self-Help Center

http://www.familycourt.org/main/inside.php?page=self-help_resources

Petition for 103 Divorce (no minors)

Petition for 103 Divorce (with minors)

Instructions- 103 Divorce Court Guide

103ProcedureChart.modiphy.dnsconnect.net:~familyco:main:uploads:File:103 Divorce Process Chart

Posting Evidence Against Yourself?

Don’t post evidence against yourself.

If you are involved in a family law suit–divorce, child custody, child support– be conscious and cautious about what you post online. It is easily available to everyone. And even if you go back and remove it, someone may have printed or recorded it in some permanent way, or friends and family may have reposted it, commented on it, or shared it with others.

The same applies if you are applying for a job or just hoping to make a good impression on new friends. The first thing we all do when we want to find out about someone is to “Google” him or her. Think about what you want people to see about you before you text, send e-mail messages, post to Facebook or other social media, or share information about yourself online in any way. It could spread wide and be available for a very long time.

The First Amendment gives us the right to free speech, but it does prohibit what we say, write, and post from being used against us in or out of court.

In a recent blog post, attorney Karen T. Willitts tells of recent court cases that lead to outcomes the poster probably didn’t intend. You can find the entire article at:

http://www.newjerseydivorcelawyer-blog.com/2014/05/23/social-media-law-say-post-can-used/

Quotes from that Post:

Social Media in the Law: What You Say (or Post) Can Be Used Against You Do citizens have a right to free speech?

Yes, but that does not necessarily mean that you should not be cautious about the kind of information that you post on the Internet on social media websites.  People forget that their comments, even if meant innocently or innocuously, and even if intended to be private, have a way of finding their way into the public space. In the context of family disputes, it is increasingly common that social media postings can be used against a litigant in court.  For example, a litigant asserting an inability to meet support obligations because of reduced income may find that photos, comments and postings on social media may be used against that litigant to show that his or her income is higher than alleged or that the obligor litigant’s lifestyle suggests an income that is more than that litigant admitted in court.

Can I get a divorce in Louisiana? What forms do I file, and can I do it without an attorney?

I’m trying to get a simple divorce. My husband and I have no kids, share no bank accounts or property. I’ve called many LA courthouses today and they all have told me something different.

Q – Can I get a divorce in the state of Louisiana?

You must file for divorce in the court of proper jurisdiction and venue that has the authority to grant your divorce. Two criteria apply:

–      Residence requirements: Where you live now or last lived together with your spouse.

In Louisiana, jurisdiction and venue is proper if :

1) The last “matrimonial domicile” was in that jurisdiction, and

2) One or both of the parties still live in the jurisdiction.

–      Authority of the Court: Which particular court in your area is the proper court for filing divorce suits.

States are divided into separate jurisdictional districts. In Louisiana, some of jurisdictional districts contain only one parish, and some contain several.

And, there are different courts with different realms of authority within different jurisdictions: city, civil, family, juvenile, federal, etc.

In many parishes, the state judicial district court is the proper jurisdiction for divorce, but in other parishes it is not. For instance, East Baton Rouge Parish, where I’m located, is in the 19th Judicial District of the state court systems, but The Family Court of and for East Baton Rouge Parish is the court of proper jurisdiction for filing divorces.

So it is important to first determine your court of proper jurisdiction. If you and your spouse are separated and live in different parishes, you may have a choice of jurisdictions.

If you’re uncertain about your jurisdiction, it may be a good idea to call the Clerk of Court offices in your area to determine where you should file.

Q – Which forms should I file, and can I do it without an attorney?

Divorce forms are substantially standard throughout the state of Louisiana, but different courts have different rules and requirements for the heading at the top of the first page of the petition. You can find court rules online, and the Clerk of Court may be able to give you particular information, though most don’t distribute forms.

In short, most Louisiana couples use no-fault divorce procedures that require the husband and wife live separately and apart in different residences for a period of time. If the couple has children under the age of 18, the time required is one year (365 days); and if there are no children, the time required is six months (180 days).

The two no-fault divorce statutes require different procedural processes, so it is important to file under the proper statute. Louisiana Civil Code Article 102 and the process it requires apply to a couple who are just separating and want to begin the divorce process while living apart. Louisiana Civil Code Article 103 applies to a couple who have already lived apart for the required period of time and want to get a judgment of divorce.

Though not all courts offer such service, the East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court and the Baton Rouge Bar Association offer free forms and help with filling them out and understanding the process through the Self-help desk. You can find out more information by visiting the Baton Rouge Bar website or calling their office.

Other important considerations:  The Louisiana community property laws apply if you were married in this state or if you were married in another place but moved to this state. Divorce procedures have important consequences for property the couple owns together, but can also have consequences for property each person owned before the marriage. These laws and consequences apply to everything acquired during the marriage including such things as earnings, intellectual property rights and retirement benefits. Property that you or your spouse may consider “yours” and “mine” may actually be community property in which both spouses have rights.

Most attorneys will meet with you for a one-time consultation fee (ranging from free to several hundred dollars). It is usually a good idea to invest in a consultation to be certain about your property rights. If you situation is as simple as you think it is, you may be able to continue without an attorney.

If you do decide you need an attorney, any attorney licensed in Louisiana can work in any Louisiana jurisdiction, but it is usually best and least expensive to find an attorney who practices frequently within your particular jurisdiction.

Can I get my divorce myself without a lawyer?

Yes, it is certainly possible, and getting easier, to get a do-it-yourself divorce. If you proceed without an attorney (file your own forms and represent yourself) you are appearing pro se, or “in proper person.”

Courts all around the country are encountering more and more people who “just want to get a divorce,” and these courts are responding by offering free forms and sometimes instructions about how to fill them out, how and where to file them, and what to do next.

In Baton Rouge Louisiana, where my practice is located, there is a self-help desk for people who want to get a simple divorce as inexpensively as possible and without lawyers. This self-help desk is sponsored by the Baton Rouge Bar in cooperation with The Family Court of East Baton Rouge Parish.

If you live in another jurisdiction, contact your local Bar Association to find out if forms and assistance are available.

FREE DIVORCE FORMS on this website:

I have posted sample forms for the two basic types of procedure available under Louisiana’s no-fault divorce statutes, Louisiana Civil Code Articles 102, 103, and 103.1. You are welcome to use these forms. They will, most likely, need to be revised to suit your particular situation. The forms are in Word (docx) format so that you can download them and make necessary changes. (If you have difficulty downloading the forms, please contact us at <anita@anitawhitefamilylaw.com>, and we will be happy to e-mail you forms in a different format.)

If you “just want to get the divorce,” and there are no issues involving minor children of the marriage (child support, custody, visitation, abuse) and no support or property issues (interim alimony, property division, jointly-owned house and lot, retirement benefits, etc.) at stake, you should be able to proceed just fine in proper person.

If the only thing at stake is child custody and child support, you may be able to obtain free assistance from your local district attorney’s Office of Child Support. In quire by calling or visiting your local district attorney’s office for your jurisdiction, and make an appointment to see whether the district attorney can represent you.

Domestic Violence:   If there has been abuse by one spouse of the other spouse and/or one or more the children, most states have laws the provide extraordinary protective measures. Help is also available through local organizations that assist families in which abuse has occurred by providing safe means for the abused to leave the abuser, a safe place to stay, food, clothing, counseling, education, and sometimes financial and legal assistance. In the Baton Rouge area, find out more information and contact IRIS at their website at http://www.stopdv.org or “Women Outreaching Women” at their website at http://www.womenowomen.com.

If your situation is more complicated–if you have property (land, retirement benefits, investment accounts, children requiring special services, disagreement about child custody, or other complex issues, you should consult an attorney in your area. Most attorneys offer a one-time meeting (consultation) at which  you can ask questions and get information about the particular aspects of your case. Although some attorneys still offer free consultations, be prepared to pay $100 to $500 average for a good consultation. It will probably be worth the money if your situation is complex. Most Bar Associations offer a Lawyer Referral Service that helps you find an attorney and make an appointment for a consultation, sometimes at a reduced rate. The Baton Rouge Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service offers a half-hour consultation with a lawyer for $25. My own consultation fee is $250, and I usually spend two hours on an initial consultation. I find it takes at least that much time for us to exchange essential information–for me to explain the legal process and the options you may have concerning your issues, and for you to explain those issues to me in enough detail that my answers are tailored to your situation. Although the attorney and the client may decide to work together, there is no obligation on either the attorney’s or the client’s side after the consultation.

(See other postings for divorce law and procedures and for explanations of other legal matters concerning families.)

 

 

Louisiana Divorce Law – The Bare Basics

Louisiana, as most other states, is a “no-fault” divorce state. It is no longer necessary to prove fault of either party to obtain a divorce in Louisiana.

If the spouses have been living “separately and apart without reconciliation” for the designated amount of time:  one year (365 days) if they have children under the age of 18, or six months (180 days) if there are no minor children “of the marriage.” If one or both spouses has minor children from another marriage, but not together from their current marriage, they can get the six-month divorce.

If the parties are just separating, they must proceed according to Louisiana Civil Code Statute 102, filing the petition at the time of separation (they must be separated when the petition is filed) and the “rule to show cause why divorce should not be granted” at the end of the designated time.

If the parties have already been separated without reconciliation, they can proceed according to Louisiana Civil Code Statute 103 and 103.1, which allows them to obtain the judgment of divorce without having to start counting the separation time all over again.

These basic Louisiana Divorce statutes are given below.

LOUISIANA DIVORCE STATUTES

Free Divorce Forms: Sample forms for Louisiana 103 Divorce

Louisiana, as most other states, is a “no-fault” divorce state. It is no longer necessary to prove fault of either party to obtain a divorce in Louisiana.

If the spouses have been living “separately and apart without reconciliation” for the designated amount of time:  one year (365 days) if they have children under the age of 18, or six months (180 days) if there are no minor children “of the marriage.” If one or both spouses has minor children from another marriage, but not together from their current marriage, they can get the six-month divorce.

If the parties are just separating, they must proceed according to Louisiana Civil Code Statute 102, filing the petition at the time of separation (they must be separated when the petition is filed) and the “rule to show cause why divorce should not be granted” at the end of the designated time.

If the parties have already been separated without reconciliation, they can proceed according to Louisiana Civil Code Statute 103 and 103.1, which allows them to obtain the judgment of divorce without having to start counting the separation time all over again.

These basic Louisiana Divorce statutes are given below.Divorce Forms for Louisiana 103 No-fault divorce Statutes and Court Rules for 103 Divorce Divorce Form 1 – Default confirmation for 103Divorce Forms for Louisiana 103 No-fault divorceDivorce Form 1 – Default confirmation for 103