Divorce in America is governed by the laws of the individual state in which it occurs. Divorce, also known as “dissolution of marriage,” is a legal process in which a judge or other authority legally terminates a marriage, restoring them to the status of being single and permitting them to marry other individuals. A divorce can be filed in either a covenant marriage or a traditional marriage. These proceedings also include matters of spousal support, child custody, child support, distribution of property and division of debt. Divorce laws vary from state to state. While divorcing spouses once were required to show a reason for the termination of the marriage by allocating fault to one of the parties, such as adultery, sterility, abandonment, insanity, or imprisonment, every state now allows for “no fault” divorces normally on the basis of irreconcilable differences. Nevertheless, many states still allow their courts to take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property and debts, evaluating child custody issues, and determining child and spousal support. Similarly, some states require a period of separation prior to divorce plus some also require therapy, and this has led to the creation of another category of relationship called separation.
Louisiana was the first state to establish covenant marriage in the U.S. in 1997. The general idea behind it is to preserve the marriage union and make it more difficult to divorce. These types of marriages require counseling before entering into the contract and again if the couple chooses to separate and divorce. In Louisiana, anyone who has been a resident for the minimum of one year can file for divorce. Even if they are living outside of the state, residents of Louisiana can file for divorce as long as they maintain their residency. The petition for divorce must be filed in the parish where either spouse dwells or where the couple last lived together. Couples who entered into a covenant marriage are required to seek marital counseling before filing for divorce. A divorce based on a separation will be granted as long as the couple has been separated for at least six months, and there are no children from the marriage. Parents who have minor children must live apart for one year before they will be granted a divorce. In a fault-based divorce, one spouse alleges that the other spouse’s misconduct, such as adultery, led to the break-down of the marriage. If the pair entered into a covenant marriage, they must cite grounds for divorce.
A covenant marriage is an alternative marriage license and makes it harder to divorce. The laws covering covenant marriage vary from state to state whereas a traditional marriage is a phrase that may refer to marriage and its customs and practices in a particular culture. Covenant marriage differs from a standard marriage contract in that the covenant partners are required to attend pre-marital counseling and would have to wait two years before a divorce can be filed. In addition, a covenant marriage license could not be absolved with a no-fault cause. The conditions for divorce would be abuse, adultery, long-term separation, or a felony conviction. Again, the laws for covenant marriages vary because they are legislated by the states.
In a traditional marriage, a divorce may be granted on the grounds of the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously for the requisite period of time or more prior to the filing of the Rule to Show Cause, the other spouse has committed adultery, or the other spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor. In a covenant marriage, a divorce may be granted on the grounds of one spouse having committed adultery, one spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor, the spouse has abandoned the marital residence for a period of one year and constantly refuses to return, the other spouse has physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking the divorce or a child of one of the spouses, the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of two years, the spouses have been living separate and apart continuously without reconciliation for a period of one year from the date the judgment of separation from bed and board was signed, or if there is a minor child or children of the marriage, that the time frame must be one year and six month, unless abuse of a child of the marriage or of one of the spouses is the basis for which the separation from bed and board was obtained in which case the time period is one year.
Divorcing couples can work out a “marital separation agreement” where they agree to split assets and debts any way they choose. A court will want to review the agreement, however, to ensure that the division is fair and that property is divided equally between spouses. For example, if one spouse is awarded the family home, the other one must receive property or assets of equal value. Marital property must be split evenly, unless the couple has a valid pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that indicates the couple agreed to a different type of division. Finally, assets either spouse owned before the marriage are not viewed as community property; rather, these will be considered “separate” property and not eligible to be split between the pair. In the case of child custody, family courts want to make sure that both parents remain an active part of their children’s lives, as long as it is in the best interests of the child. They typically favor joint custody, unless one parent poses a danger to the kids. Couples may work out an agreement outside of court if their split is amicable and uncontested. If they still have a few issues to resolve, these can be worked out through mediation.
- Guillen, A. L. (n.d.). Louisiana Divorce: Questions and Answers. Retrieved March 11, 2017, from http://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/divorce-state-laws/louisiana-divorce-questions-answers
- Louisiana Divorce Law. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017, from https://www.hg.org/divorce-law-Louisiana.html#2
- Louisiana Divorce Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved March 11, 2017, from http://statelaws.findlaw.com/louisiana-law/louisiana-legal-requirements-for-divorce.html