So you’ve decided that you’re ready to file for divorce. What comes next? Well, in Louisiana, there are required periods of separation in order to be eligible for a divorce. If you have minor children, you must be living separate and apart for 365 days. If you don’t have minor children, that separation period is lessened to 180 days.
It is always a good idea to at least consult with an attorney about your options prior to filing for divorce. However, sometimes your situation may be simple enough that you can file for divorce on your own, without the help of an attorney. If you don’t have minor children together (or are completely on the same page about custody and support), and don’t have extensive community assets, it may be possible to get divorced without incurring the costs for an attorney. In this blog, we’ll talk about the two different divorce filings, and how to file for an Article 103.1 divorce on your own.
In Louisiana, there are two options for filing for divorce. There’s a divorce under Article 102, which means that you have not yet started the required separation period, but intend to as of the date of filing. A divorce under Article 103 is essentially the opposite: you file under Article 103.1 when you and your former spouse have already completed the necessary separation period and are ready to move forward with filing and confirming the divorce. There are many other differences between these two types of divorces and you should consult with an attorney prior to determining how you will file.
Assuming you and your spouse have been separate and apart for the requisite amount of time, and you’re ready to file for divorce under Article 103.1, the following bullet points should guide you on how to get your uncontested divorce filed and confirmed in a few short weeks.
In St. Tammany Parish, standardized forms are available for you on https://22ndjdc.org/forms/ ; here, you will click on “Divorce Forms,”and click on the Petition for 103 Divorce along with the Checklist. Make sure to print these out on legal sized paper (Office Depot or your local library may be able to do this for you).
You will fill out the forms, and at the end, there’s an option to either have your spouse formally served by a sheriff’s deputy, or to have your spouse “waive service.” Make sure that you indicate a detailed and correct address. If your spouse is going to waive service, that means they are willing to sign the waiver of service form that’s contained in the Petition for 103 Divorce, in front of a notary. This will save you some money, so it’s the best option if it’s feasible.
Once your former spouse has been served or the waiver of service has been filed into the court record, your spouse has 15 calendar days to file an answer. Assuming the divorce is uncontested and they don’t file an answer, the next step is to fill out file the page titled “Preliminary Default” into the court record. This form is simple and indicates to the court that your former spouse was served or waived service, and that the deadline to file an answer has passed.
Once you file this Preliminary Default, you must wait until it is signed by the Judge. Call the Clerk of Court routinely and ask for an update on the status of your preliminary default (have your docket number and division handy; they can be found at the top of your divorce paperwork).
Once your preliminary default has been entered, there will be an affidavit that was contained inside the Petition for Divorce that must be filled out and signed in front of a notary. Once you complete the affidavit, attach two copies of the judgment (the packet only comes with one) and your checklist (this should be complicated with the dates the Petition was filed, the date service was waived or made upon the defendant, and the date of preliminary default), and file all three forms in the court record. Within a few weeks, the judgment will be presented to the Judge for signature. If everything is in order and has been properly filed, the Judge will sign off on your divorce and mail both parties a certified copy of your divorce decree.
Congratulations! Once you receive your divorce decree, it is official!