Couple got legal separation in louisianaLegal separation in Louisiana is only available to couples in a covenant marriage. The state of Louisiana recognizes only two types of marriages: covenant marriage and traditional marriage. Couples that opt for a covenant marriage are aware that it’s a lifelong commitment, and later filing for a legal separation or divorce can be a difficult process.

For traditional marriages, Louisiana no longer has an action for a legal separation.

How to File for a Legal Separation in Louisiana

To file for a legal separation in Louisiana, a couple is required by the court to state the legal grounds for the request. Examples of the acceptable grounds for legal separation in Louisiana include abuse – sexual or physical, felony conviction, or abandonment. If your partner has no record of misconduct, a legal separation will only be granted if you have lived separately and apart for at least two years.

Louisiana separation agreementDuring a legal separation, spouses should work together to establish a separation agreement. A Louisiana separation agreement is a legally-binding contract signed by a couple that contains the terms and conditions of separation. It can be a very complex and detailed document depending on the unique situation of the marriage.

The court will need a settlement agreement availed before a judge makes a final decision. The document should contain the agreed terms for property division, alimony, child support, custody, and visitation.

Additionally, the state will require that at least one spouse has been a resident of Louisiana for at least one year before filing for legal separation in Louisiana. The petition may be filed in the parish where either the petitioner or respondent lives.

A couple can avail the separation agreement before a court to get a final decision from the judge. The court will carefully analyze the document and ensure that it’s fair to both sides before getting the judge’s signature. Some courts may require the couple to participate in marital counseling before the judge can grant your petition for separation.

How Is Marital Property Divided in Louisiana?

The marital property is divided in Louisiana based on what the couple agrees on. A court will review the agreement; however, to ensure a fair division of assets, the property may be equally divided between spouses. Marital property must be divided equally unless the couple avails a valid pre or post-nuptial agreement indicating that the couple agreed to a different type of division.

All property acquired by either spouse before marriage is not viewed as marital property. Rather, these will be considered “separate” property and not eligible to be split between the pair.

Dividing retirement benefits can be a tedious process that requires an experienced attorney. A professional lawyer can help you determine which accounts are eligible to be divided. The values of IRA and 401(k) plans are relatively easy to figure out since a statement showing how much is in the account is usually issued.

On the other hand, pension plans are not paid out until after retirement and may therefore be difficult to value today. Depending on the type of plan, you need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) from the court. This helps a plan administrator divide benefits between the spouses.

Child Support and Spousal Support During Legal Separation

In a legal separation, a spouse may petition the court for child support and/or spousal support.

Some of the factors considered when setting the child support include:

  • Each parent’s income
  • Assets, community property, and debts.
  • Alimony
  • Total number of children requiring support

Spousal support is calculated based on factors such as:

  • Financial needs of the custodial parent
  • Each partner’s income
  • Health and age of each spouse
  • Length of the marriage
  • Individual earning capacity

Frequently Asked Questions

– Is an Attorney Required for Legal Separation?

Not really. It’s possible to go through a legal separation process without the help of an attorney. However, hiring an experienced family lawyer makes all the difference since the Louisiana separation laws are ever-changing.

– What Is a Covenant Marriage?

A covenant marriage is a marriage entered into by a male and female who understands that the marriage between them is a lifelong relationship, according to section 9:272 of the Louisiana Revised Status. A couple seeking this kind of marriage must first declare their intent then go for counseling before obtaining a marriage license.

The non-breaching party can only seek to legally end the marriage if there’s a complete and total breach of the marital covenant. A judgment of legal separation or divorce in a covenant marriage may not be obtained until the parties obtain counseling.

– What Happens if Spouses Can’t Agree on Settlement Terms?

If a separating couple disagrees on the settlement terms, the court will have to intervene and make a final decision on the child support and alimony to be awarded as well as how the property is to be divided. The judge will also use “the best interest of the child” standard when awarding custody.

Disagreements can be costly. The more time two spouses spend fighting in court, the higher the court and lawyer fees will be. It’s recommended to try as much as possible to work out a fair solution before presenting an agreement in court.

– What Happens If Spouses Reconcile?

If spouses reconcile, the couple will get a fresh start and the faults of either spouse will no longer be used as a ground for legal separation.

The reconciliation process cannot be effected without cohabitation and resumption of marital status. It’s a defense in a case where you file for a legal separation, and your spouse is against it. The other spouse can try to prove separation in Louisiana should be ended since you two reconciled.

– What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

The difference between legal separation and divorce is that legal separation is similar to putting your marriage on hold while divorce is considered the end of marriage. In a legal separation, one spouse files the petition in court and together they come to an agreement on the necessary terms for the separation.

The spouses are still considered next of kin and make crucial financial and medical decisions. Often, both partners opt to live separate lives and if a disagreement arises, the court acts as a mediator to resolve any issues.

Legal separation and physical separation are two distinct concepts. In a physical separation, one partner may decide to move out of the marital home and live separately before being granted a legal separation or divorce. Unlike a legal separation it cannot be declared legal – unless the two have a covenant marriage.

In a legal separation, the spouses still remain legally married after the process. Neither of the two can remarry, unless a divorce is first sought.

– Why Go for Separation Instead of a Divorce?

Generally, there exists no right or wrong reason to choose a legal separation instead of a divorce. In most cases, covenant marriages are hard to terminate, and couples find it easier to file for a legal separation. Besides, a separation gives a less permanent outcome if both of you agree that getting a divorce isn’t right for your relationship.

Other common reasons for opting for a legal separation include:

  • The couple desires to remain married but has a written separation agreement in place
  • Either partner has a moral, social, or religious objection against divorce
  • It allows one of the spouses to be eligible for health insurance coverage from the other spouse.
  • The spouses have accumulated valuable tax benefits that will end with divorce

Conclusion

Legal separation in louisianaLegal separation as a concept was removed when Louisiana migrated to a no-fault divorce model, which allows the parties to seek divorce 180 days after the filing date when the spouses have lived separate and apart.

Let us recap the important points in this article:

  • Legal separation in Louisiana is only available to couples in a covenant marriage
  • Either spouse can file a motion with the court
  • The couple must provide the court with legal grounds for a separation request
  • A settlement agreement is required by the court before the judge finalizes your case
  • At least one spouse is a resident of the state of Louisiana for at least one year before filing for legal separation
  • A couple that is unable to agree on a settlement proceeds to a court trial
  • Marital property must be divided equally unless a valid pre or postnuptial agreement exits indicating that the couple agreed to a different terms of division

Legal separation in Louisiana is only available for spouses in a covenant marriage. Those in traditional marriages have to explore other legal options if they are looking to end their marriage without filing for divorce.

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