Divorce is among life’s most consequential events. It is an emotionally and financially stressful time that challenges couples, especially if they have children. The most contentious battles often involve custody agreements and shared parenting responsibilities. How does Louisiana govern divorces compared to other states?
One aspect that distinguishes matrimonial law in the Bayou State from many other states is the concept of a “covenant marriage.” Couples who enter a covenant marriage agree before they marry to obtain counseling when issues surface during the marriage and prior to divorce. Louisiana also requires spouses in a covenant marriage to separate for six months prior to divorcing if they have no children and to live apart for at least one year before petitioning the court. The spouse seeking a divorce must also prove there are grounds for the divorce.
Grounds for divorce
Legal reasons for ending a traditional or non-covenant marriage are adultery or a felony conviction. However, a covenant marriage also may be terminated if:
- One of the spouses abandons the other for one year or more
- One of the spouses physically or sexually abuses their partner or children
- The couple has separated for at least two years
- The couple has lived apart for one year after a legal separation with no hope of reconciliation or 18 months with minor children
Grounds for divorce typically influence judges in custody decisions. Desertion and abuse can prohibit visitation and block alimony. As for property division, Louisiana requires that all marital assets be shared equally unless there is a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that specifies distribution.
Assets that spouses owned before the marriage are separated from community property and not equitably shared. Retirement accounts can be more complicated because they often are not mature at the time of a divorce. A financial expert may have to value pensions and benefits.
Moving forward fairly
Child support, visitation and spousal support can be the most complicated issues to settle whether a divorce involves a traditional or covenant marriage. The stakes are enormous. You and your spouse have to move forward separately while executing a sensible co-parenting plan that ensures your children will not be irreparably harmed by your decision to separate.
A collaborative approach may be sensitive to everyone’s needs. But it’s also important to protect your rights as a parent and an individual when ending a marriage. An experienced family law attorney with a holistic touch may be able to negotiate the best possible outcome for all parties.