You can. The State of Louisiana allows you to file your own divorce without the assistance of an attorney. However, you may want to at a minimum have a consultation with a Louisiana divorce attorney to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row and file the correct paperwork.
It’s always better to seek the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney before filing on your own, especially if there were children born of the marriage and/or community property that needs to be divided.
You don’t want to make a mistake on your paperwork and have to start over or worse, pay more money than you have to. Keep in mind, the Judge cannot give you legal advice on how to file a divorce in Louisiana! Neither can the Clerk of Court. All they can do is accept the documents that you provide them and file. If your paperwork is incorrect, they cannot advise you on how to fix it.
The court will hold you to the same standard as parties represented by lawyers should you decide to represent yourself in your divorce. I’ve seen numerous people get taken advantage of because they didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t file the correct paperwork.
Most divorce attorneys in Louisiana offer free consultations. Take advantage of this and see just how difficult your particular case may be and whether or not you want to test the waters and strike out on your own.
Can I get a divorce using one of those websites like LegalZoom?
Legal Zoom is not an attorney. While you can purchase forms online to file your divorce, they may not necessarily be Louisiana specific. Louisiana divorce laws are different than other states and you need to make sure your Petition for Divorce follows our body of law or else your divorce will not be valid and you will still be married.
Online divorce form generators cannot give you legal advice. Form websites such as LegalZoom.com and 123Divorce.com or one of the other generic legal form websites usually only work as long as both you and your spouse agree on everything and you are both willing to sign the divorce paperwork in full.
If there are any issues with the divorce, these companies cannot give you legal advice and if you mess up your form, you have to pay again. Hiring an attorney will ensure that your divorce paperwork is correct and will meet the guidelines to get your Judgment of Divorce. If there are issues, an attorney can fix them and/or go to court if that’s needed.
If a divorce matter needs a Judge’s intervention, these form websites will not work- they are not your lawyer and may not have a working knowledge of the intricacies of Louisiana Divorce Law. That’s not to say you can’t get a divorce using online forms, just make sure they are correct.
Does Louisiana have common law marriages?
No. Louisiana is not a common law marriage state and you are only considered married if you have properly obtained a marriage license and had a valid marriage ceremony. It does not matter how long you have lived together, you are only married if you followed the guidelines. However, Louisiana does recognize common law marriages from other states.
Will the court appoint a lawyer for me in my divorce if my spouse shows up with one?
No. Court appointed laws are generally only available in criminal cases and not civil cases. If you printed your divorce online and your spouse shows up to court with an attorney, you are considered as representing yourself, or in proper person. The judge will expect you to know the law and present your case as your attorney would.
Not a good position to be in. You can alleviate this by speaking with an attorney to see if you need legal representation. Remember, most law firms in Louisiana conduct free consultations for divorces.
What if my partner and I get back together, but separate again?
This is called reconciliation and is explained in Article 104 of the Louisiana Civil Code. Reconciliation basically extinguishes the cause of action for divorce. This means you have to start over for the living separate and apart requirement. If you reconcile with your spouse and resume living together and holding yourself out as husband and wife, the time you spent separate will not count towards your divorce.
It should be noted that having sexual relations with your ex does not necessarily count as reconciliation. There are other factors that will be considered.
What if my spouse moved out of state, can I still file my divorce in Louisiana?
Yes. If your soon to be ex has moved out of the state, you can still file your Petition for Divorce in Louisiana. You will have to have them served with the petition and it may prolong your divorce, but an attorney can do the leg work for you and make sure your divorce gets finalized even if your spouse fled the state.
What if my spouse refuses to grant me a divorce in Louisiana?
Gone are the days when a spouse can deny a divorce. Your spouse cannot halt the divorce proceedings by refusing to sign on the dotted line. Louisiana is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning you don’t need a reason to divorce. You just have to fulfill the separation requirements.
What happens if my spouse ignores the divorce paperwork and doesn't answer?
You can still ask the court for a Judgment of Divorce once the proper steps have been accomplished. Your spouse doesn’t have to acknowledge or sign for the divorce. It makes it easier if they do, but it’s not required for you to get a divorce in Louisiana.
What if I can’t afford the court filing fees for my divorce?
If you are low income and unable to pay the filing fees for your divorce, there is still hope. Article 5181 of the Louisiana Code of Civil procedure states: “an individual who is unable to pay the costs of court because of his poverty and lack of means may prosecute or defend a judicial proceeding in any trial or appellate court without paying the costs in advance or as they accrue or furnishing security therefor.”
If you are unable to afford the fees to file your divorce in Louisiana, the law provides a way that you can file an affidavit stating your inability to pay. This will allow you to proceed with your case in forma pauperis (IFP). You will have to fill out a form that lists out your expenses and income and you will have to sign stating that it is correct. You will need a witness who knows your financial situation and this form will need to be notarized. The Judge will then sign if you meet the parameters to have your court costs deferred. Keep in mind that this doesn’t wipe the slate clean, you will still likely be responsible to pay your filing fees. These can run anywhere from $200-$400 depending on the circumstances of your divorce.
I hope you found this article helpful! If you have further questions about your Louisiana divorce, call me at (318) 229-1608 or send an email to Jerome@AndriesLawFirm.com. I would be glad to help walk you through the process.