Many things have slowed down during the Covid-19 pandemic. The good news is you can still obtain a quick uncontested divorce in Louisiana. This blog article will discuss slight changes in how quick divorces are processed due to Covid-19 as well as best practices for ensuring your divorce judgment is obtained as soon as possible. For the purpose of this article, a quick divorce will refer to an uncontested divorce where both parties agree and do not need the court to adjudicate the terms of the divorce. Click here to learn more about uncontested divorces. At the end of this article, we will briefly discuss the impact of Covid-19 on contested divorces.
This article was written in October of 2020. Things may have changed by the time you read this article. Please feel free to reach out to me or the court on delays from Covid-19.
Length of Time for Quick Divorce in Louisiana During Covid-19
Most Louisiana courts shut down in March of 2020 during the initial stay-at-home order issued by the governor in Louisiana. However, all courts are reopened and processing paperwork at the time this article was published. If you need to enter a courthouse, please call the courthouse in advance to request their policies on personal protective equipment that must be worn (masks) and to see if they have limited hours.
Based upon the uncontested divorces we have filed in August, September, and October of 2020, the time required to process uncontested divorces has not slowed down compared with pre-pandemic divorce processing. In some parishes, we are able to process uncontested divorces even faster than before due to electronic filing changes enacted as a result of the pandemic.
There are two important time periods when determining the time it takes to complete a divorce – the legally required time of spousal separation and the period of time it takes for the court to process the divorce.
1. Requisite Period of Living Separate and Apart
There are two main types of uncontested divorces in Louisiana – 1. Louisiana Civil Code Article 102 Divorce and Article 103 Divorce. Both require that a requisite amount of time elapsed prior to the granting of the divorce. The requisite amount of time is laid out in Louisiana Civil Code Article 103.1. If you have minor children of the marriage, you must be separated for one year before obtaining your final divorce judgment. If there are no minor children of the marriage, you must be separated for six months before obtaining your final divorce judgment.
If you and your spouse have been separated for the required amount of time, you can obtain a fast uncontested divorce judgment in Louisiana through a series of paperwork filings with the court. Depending on your parish, you and your spouse may not even need to appear at court. If you have an attorney, your attorney will draft your pleadings and file them with the court. All you and your spouse will have to do is provide information and sign paperwork. When both spouses have been separated for the legally mandated time period, an uncontested divorce can take 2- 6 months to finalize.
If you and your spouse have agreed to matters other than divorce like child custody, child support, spousal support, or community property partition, these issues can be presented for the judge’s signature in the form of a “Consent Judgment.” Your attorney will prepare this Consent Judgment(s) for you and your spouse’s signature and will file the judgment for execution by the court.
When You Have Already Been Separated
When You Have Not Met Louisiana’s Separation Requirement
If you have not been separated for the time required by law (one year with minor children of the marriage; six months with no minor children of the marriage), then you have the option to 1) wait the requisite amount of time prior to filing your petition for divorce or 2) file the petition for divorce at the time of separation and then wait the requisite amount of time.
There are three main reasons to file when you have not been separated for the required amount of time. First, you can have your custody, child support, and/or spousal support consent judgment entered by the court while you wait for your time to pass. Second, you can terminate your community property regime prior to waiting for your time to pass. This will prevent you from having to share any community debt that your spouse may assume after the time of filing. And third, many feel that filing for divorce provides them with mental peace of mind for taking action on their divorce.
When you file before you have been separated for the required amount of time, your six months or one year will “start over” from the time your spouse is served. In uncontested divorces, your spouse will likely sign a “Waiver of Service” which will accomplish service. Once the required time for being separated has passed, your attorney will file to set a hearing to finalize your divorce. If your spouse signs a second “Waiver of Service” at this point, your attorney will have you sign a sworn statement relating to your divorce and separation and will attend the hearing alone. If your spouse does not sign a second “Waiver of Service,” you will have to attend the hearing and provide testimony relating to your divorce and separation. This is generally a very quick and standard proceeding. If the court finds that you were separated for the required period of time after filing your petition, it will grant your judgment of divorce.
2. Best Practices for Obtaining a Quick Divorce in Louisiana
To ensure that your divorce is completed as quickly as possible, we recommend you take the following steps prior to filing your case:
- Speak with your spouse to determine if he/she is willing to sign paperwork for the divorce;
- Make a plan with your spouse and/or your attorney for your spouse to sign the paperwork for the divorce as soon as possible after filing the petition for divorce;
- Provide your attorney with full contact information for you and your spouse;
- Discuss your timeline and expectations for a quick divorce with your attorney;
- Speak with your spouse and/or your attorney about any additional filings that may be necessary such as custody, child support, spousal support, and separation of property, and how those additional filings may affect the timeline of your divorce;
- Determine and gather all information necessary for your divorce case;
- Return all calls and emails from your attorney as promptly as possible;
- Make an appointment with your attorney to sign any necessary paperwork for your divorce as soon as possible.
3. Express Divorce
In Louisiana, the court processing time for uncontested divorces is anywhere from 2-6 months (depending on the parish you reside in). If you reside in Orleans or Jefferson Parish and need your divorce completed faster, your best option for a quick divorce is an “Express Divorce.” By selecting an Express Divorce, you will ensure that your divorce is completed within two to three weeks from the date we receive all executed documents.
Am I Eligible for an Express Divorce?
You are eligible for an “Express Divorce” if the following requirements are met:
- You or your spouse meet the Louisiana and Orleans Parish residency and/or venue requirements.
- You and your spouse have been separated for the required amount of time – 180 days with no minor children or one year with minor children.
- You know where your spouse is located.
- Your spouse is cooperating with the process and willing to execute documents necessary for the divorce.
- You and your spouse are in agreement regarding the division of any property, assets or debt (if applicable).
- You and your spouse are in agreement regarding custody and support of the minor children (if applicable).
How Does the Express Divorce Work?
The difference between a regular uncontested divorce and an express uncontested divorce is the time it takes to obtain the judgment of divorce. Usually, when a divorce is filed, each round of paperwork (there are generally three rounds) are either mailed to or electronically filed with the court. Each round of paperwork must make its way through the clerk’s office for the judge’s signature, then back to the attorney. Depending on the parish court, this process can take anywhere from a couple days to a month. When your express divorce is filed, a court runner physically brings your pleading to the court, files them with the clerk’s office, walks the judgment to the judge for signing, brings the judgment back up to the clerk’s office for processing, then returns the pleading to the attorney. This takes the processing time for each step of the case from a couple weeks to a month to one to two days. Therefore, you are able to complete your divorce in one to two weeks after we receive all the executed documents from you and your spouse. As of the publishing of this article, Covid-19 has not affected the ability of spouses to obtain express divorces in Orleans and jefferson Parish.
4. Covid-19’s affect on Contested Divorce Cases in Louisiana
A contested divorce is where spouses do not agree and require the court to rule on the terms of the divorce. Contested cases require court appearances. Unfortunately, the court appearances have been seriously delayed due to backlogs caused by the shutdown. In many jurisdictions, courts are not setting hearings until months after the petition has been filed. This creates a significant delay in the timeline for divorce in contested cases especially in cases that will require multiple hearings.
How To Get Started
If you are ready to start a Quick Divorce in Louisiana, contact Rotharmel Shanks, LLC at 504-509-5000 or on our website to get started. You can contact our office with any questions you may have about your case.