Are you considering divorce and want to know how long it takes to receive a divorce judgment? This article discusses the different components of divorce and explains how each component affects the time it takes to get a divorce in Louisiana.
There are two important factors that affect how long it takes to get a divorce: 1) the legally required separation period after separation; and 2) the complexity of your case. Generally, after couples have been living spearate and apart for the mandatory amount of time, an uncontested simple divorce will take between 2 weeks and 6 months depending upon the court in the parish you are filing. A contested divorce can taken anywhere from a couple months to years to finalize depending on the complexity and how hard the spouses battle over the issues of the case.
Mandatory Time Living “Separate & Apart”
Before a divorce can be granted, Louisiana law requires spouses to have been living separate and apart continuously for the requisite period of time. Louisiana Civil Code Article 103.1 specifies that couples must be living separate and apart for 365 days where there are minor children of the marriage and 180 days where there are no minor children of the marriage. Importantly, the requirement of living spearate and apart means that couples will have to restart the clock if they have reconciled.
Exceptions to the Mandatory Waiting Period
Louisiana allows for four exceptions to the mandatory time period of living separate and apart. These exceptions can be found in Louisiana Civil Code Article 103. They are as follows:
- The other spouse has committed adultery.
- The other spouse has committed a felony and has been sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor.
- During the marriage, the other spouse physically or sexually abused the spouse seeking divorce or a child of one of the spouses, regardless of whether the other spouse was prosecuted for the act of abuse.
- After a contradictory hearing or consent decree, a protective order or an injunction was issued during the marriage, in accordance with law, against the other spouse to protect the spouse seeking the divorce or a child of one of the spouses from abuse.
How Complexity of a Divorce Affects the Length of Divorce Proceedings
The degree that spouses contest issues such as the divorce, child support, child custody, spousal support and community property can have the greatest affect on how long it takes to complete a divorce. When both spouses agree to the divorce and the related matters, the divorce is considered uncontested.
An uncontested divorce can take between two weeks and six months to complete depending on the court in the parish that you are filing. In order to expedite the uncontested divorce so that it takes less than a month, your attorney will get a court runner to physically bring your pleading to the court. The court runner files the pleadings 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, and then returns the pleading to the attorney. This takes the processing time for each step of down to one or two days instead of a couple weeks to a month.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse are not in agreement, the case can drag on for months if not years. Disputed issues that will extend the duration of the divorce include spearating community property (expecially if there are businesses), child custody/support, and allimony. High net worth divorces generally take the longest.
When to File for Divorce – Before or After Mandatory Waiting Period
Let’s say you and your spouse have just broken up and you realize that you are ready for divorce. An important consideration when filing for divorce is whether to file before or after the mandatory waiting time has passed. This decision can affect both the duration and cost of the divorce.
The main reason you would want to file before the mandatory waiting time has elapsed is because the date of filing the petition will serve as the date to terminate the community property regime. Community property is all the assets and debts that accrue during the marriage. This means that you and your spouse share in both the assets you have acquired and the debts you have incurred during the marriage. When you terminate the community property regime, the debts your spouse incurs after the filing date will be separate debts instead of communtiy debts you are responsible for. Additionally, any assets acquired after the filing date will usually be considered separate assets as opposed to community assets subject to separation.
Often spouses will file for divorce and then wait the madatory waiting period to avoid being responsible for any debts that their spouse may incur during the separation. For example, one spouse may move out after separation and take out a considerable amount of credit card debt to cover the new cost of housing. If the petition is filed prior to the debt being taken out, then the spouse who has taken out the debt will be responsible for the entire debt. Conversely, if the petition is not filed before the debt is taken out, then the debt is considered to be community property and both spouses will be responsible for the debt.
When you file for divorce prior to meeting the mandatory separation period, you will file a petition for divorce first, then file another set of paperwork once the separation period has passed to finalize the divorce. If you have other issues involved in your divorce such as custody, child support, spousal support, or separation of property, you can file consent agreements or set hearings to resolve those issues after filing your petition for divorce. You do not have to wait until the separation period has passed to resolve these issues.
Alternatively, you can choose to wait to file your petition for divorce until the mandatory separation period has passed. In this situation, you would file your petition for divorce and the required paperwork to finalize your divorce. There is no additional waiting time to finalize the divorce. Waiting until you have been separated for the required amount of time is an easier process; however, you do not enjoy the protections discussed above regarding community property and the ability to resolve other issues involved in your case prior to meeting the separation period.
If you would like more information on filing for divorce, you can contact Rotharmel Shanks, LLC at 504-509-5000 or by scheduling a call to discuss your case.