The Divorce Process
What does it mean to “file for divorce?”
In Louisiana, there is no such thing as “legal separation” or a “trial separation.” To end the marriage, one spouse must file a “Petition for Divorce” in court. The Petition is a document asking a judge to end the marriage. The Petition must contain certain information (your name, spouse’s name, date of your marriage, date of separation, and other information depending on your circumstances). The filing of this document, this Petition, is what allows the court to control the divorce. Until this is filed, the court has no power to control what happens. You cannot end the marriage without filing this document. There are different types of Petitions for Divorce, and which to file is one of your first strategy considerations when starting your divorce. We will discuss these strategy considerations at a later point in time.
Service is required before the court can do anything. Service is required by both the US and the Louisiana Constitution. For a Louisiana defendant, service is done by a sheriff in the Parish where the defendant lives. If the defendant lives outside of Louisiana, service is done by certified mail or Fed Ex. In either case, the defendant can agree to waive service and sign an Affidavit of Waiver of Service. If the defendant does this, there is no need to serve them. Sometimes the defendant dodges, or tries to avoid service. If this happens, we ask the court to let us hire a private eye to serve the defendant. If your spouse has disappeared and you don’t know where they are, we can have the court appoint an attorney to represent your spouse and we then serve that attorney. So, one way or the other, we can get your spouse served.
When you go to finish your divorce, you will have to tell the court you have lived separate and apart and have not reconciled.