Divorce in Louisiana, Part 1
Pelican State was first to adopt covenant marriage
Attorney useful even in uncontested proceedings
Experts and legal authorities advise both parties in a contemplated divorce to retain legal counsel, for at least an initial consultation to make clear their legal rights and risks. Even in an uncontested divorce in which both parties agree, experts say the Petitioner (or plaintiff, in some states, which call the Respondent the defendant) should have an attorney in order to ensure the filing is legal and the eventual decree enforceable.
Another thing to consider is professional counseling; many who go through divorce ("dissolution of marriage") report pain and grief equivalent to that of a death in the family. Even when both parties recognize the relationship has run its course, the emotional upheaval can be traumatic. A compatible, experienced attorney can help with appropriate referrals.
Urgently addressing domestic violence
Furthermore, if the relationship includes domestic violence, that must be addressed in urgent fashion. Again, competent counsel can be invaluable not only in helping arrange shelter but also with filing protective orders and so on. Fortunately, residents of Louisiana have a bounty of facilities and agencies that provide a variety of services; following are some of the online resources:
- Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV);
- A.A.R.D.V.A.R.C.'s Louisiana: Domestic Violence Resources;
- Louisiana Supreme Court: Protective Order Registry (LPOR);
- NCADV--Domestic Violence Facts: Louisiana;
- Department of Family & Children: Family Violence Prevention and Intervention Program;
- Gender and Disaster Sourcebook;
- LSU Women's Center;
Domestic violence in the news
- "Louisiana Domestic Violence Programs Mark Grim Anniversary" (Donaldsonville Chief, April 2011);
- "Recent murder-suicides raise concern about domestic violence" (Shreveport Times, August 2011);
- "Domestic Violence in Louisiana," mentions homicide rate (KLFY Channel 10, June 2010).
According to a brochure by the Louisiana State Bar, Louisiana provides four methods of ending a marriage:
- Death of either spouse;
- Declaration of nullity of the marriage; or
- Presumption of death.
It should be noted that Louisiana no longer has an action for legal separation, effective January 1, 1991, except in the case of a covenant marriage.
Covenant marriage is something of a movement, based on cross-denominational religious grounds that, essentially, believe couples too often enter marriage glibly and divorce too easily. Louisiana was the first state (in 1997) to enact legislation providing for covenant marriage; since then, Arkansas, Arizona and Kansas have followed suit (already married couples can convert a "regular marriage" to a covenant marriage). Accordingly, in those states, it is more difficult to effect divorce in a covenant marriage--for example, in Louisiana, the no-fault provision is not available to either spouse of a covenant marriage; therefore, following mandatory counseling, one of the grounds for divorce must be proven:
- adultery by the other spouse;
- commission of a felony by the other spouse;
- abandonment of the other spouse for a period of a year;
- physical or sexual abuse;
- living separate and apart for two years; or
- living separate and apart for one year after the date of the judgment of separation from room and board.
Next time: Divorce in Louisiana, Part 2.
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