legal separation vs divorce in louisiana

When you stood in front of your friends and family and said, “I do,” you never imagined your marriage would fall apart. This past year has put so much stress on an already fragile relationship. It’s time to admit that it’s over. The real question is- what is next? 

Those living in Louisiana have two options: legal separation or divorce. You may even do legal separation and then divorce. If you’re wondering what the difference is and when each one would be most appropriate, you’re not alone. This is a question we get quite often. Let’s answer this right now!

Table of Contents
Why There’s No Legal Separation in Louisiana
Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Louisiana
Do You Need to File for Legal Separation?
Louisiana Couples in a Covenant Marriage
How is a Legal Separation Different Than Living Separately?
What’s Best for You?

Why There’s No Legal Separation in Louisiana

In other states, when couples separate to take a break in the relationship and handle matters like child custody, division of assets, property division, and spousal support outside of court, they can do so through a legal separation. This process is similar to divorce without the actual termination of the marriage.

In Louisiana, you can only file for a legal separation if you have a covenant marriage. This is an incredibly strict form of marriage that only some individuals pursue. If this applies to you, you’ll need to provide the court with a legal reason for the separation. Additionally, you must attend some form of marital counseling before the judge can grant the petition.

Legal Separation vs. Divorce in Louisiana

The biggest difference between legal separation and divorce in Louisiana is that a couple is still legally married after the former and not after the latter. Although legal separations can benefit certain couples, they do not end the marriage like a divorce would.

A divorce allows couples to terminate their marriage under the law permanently. After a divorce is finalized, the couple is legally single once again. This means each spouse can remarry if they choose to in the future. 

It’s also important to note that legal separation does not affect a couple’s estate plan or will in Louisiana. In other words, wills and trusts established during marriage remain valid after legal separation. 

The bottom line is that legal separation may be a great solution for couples with a covenant marriage in Louisiana. However, if you’re looking to officially end your marriage, divorce is your only option.

Do You Need to File for Legal Separation?

The answer is probably no if your final goal is to get divorced. Legal separation is a relic from the state’s old fault-based divorce scheme. Today, no-fault divorce is available. This has made legal separation somewhat rare. 

You would only need to file for legal separation in a few cases: you have a covenant marriage, or you want to be separated from your spouse without actually filing for divorce. Legal separation is a way to establish that the relationship is ending. It could be, but it isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for seeking divorce down the road.

Louisiana Couples in a Covenant Marriage

A covenant marriage is a unique type of legal union that couples opt to enter under Louisiana law. As it is a religious union as well as a legal one, it makes divorce more difficult. It requires fault-based grounds for ending the marriage. These grounds include:

  • Physical or Sexual Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Adultery
  • Chemical dependency
  • Other criminal behavior

If you are in a covenant marriage but are not able to establish legal grounds for a divorce, working with family attorneys to get a legal separation may be a welcomed alternative. 

How is a Legal Separation Different Than Living Separately?

A divorce may be immediately granted in Louisiana for adultery, a felony conviction that results in imprisonment or capital punishment, as well as sexual or physical abuse to you or children living with you. 

In no-fault cases where there is no immediate threat to either spouse, there are mandatory periods of time that spouses must live apart before a divorce is granted. This is six months if there are no minor children involved and one year if there are children involved. This is not the same thing as a legal separation.

People choose legal separation instead of divorce because of religious beliefs, the need for one spouse to keep the health insurance benefits that would be lost with a divorce, or simply not wanting the stigma of being divorced despite the desire to live separate lives. Being legally separated is a different legal status from being divorced or married. You’re no longer married, but you’re not divorced, either. You can’t remarry while legally separated. 

What’s Best for You?

A lot of confusion exists regarding legal separation and divorce. In Louisiana, you have to live separately for a while before your divorce is granted, but this isn’t the same as a legal separation. 

At Ellen Cronin Badeaux LLC, our experienced family law attorneys have the knowledge and resources to help answer any questions about legal separations. We’re here to offer guidance, advice, and support during this trying time so that you can make informed decisions about your future. Let us help put you on the path toward a successful resolution of your case. Together we can turn the page and start writing a new life story.

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