Almost everyone has heard of a divorce; it’s a pretty standard legal process across the country. However, not every couple has heard of a legal separation. Louisiana is, in fact, one of the few states that allow for a legal separation, almost like a divorce alternative, but with different guidelines and qualifications. If you have been wondering about Louisiana’s legal separation process, continue to read below to discover what it is, how to file, and why some couples choose it over a standard divorce.

1. What Are the Differences Between Divorce and Legal Separation?

There are quite a few similarities between legal separation and divorce.

  • Both are legal processes that end a marriage.
  • Either spouse can file a motion (or a request) with the court to end the marriage.
  • If there are any discrepancies, the court will take care of the problems before granting the request.

However, the critical difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that, at the end of a legal separation, the couple is still legally married, even though they may be living separate lives from each other.

2. What is a Covenant Marriage?

Louisiana recognizes two types of marriages: the covenant marriage and traditional marriage. The traditional marriage is more common, and couples who proceed down this path have the option to divorce at any time if they meet the state’s fault-based or no-fault divorce requirements. However, those couples that enter a covenant marriage understand that they are in a lifelong commitment, and it is harder to divorce or separate at a later time. Unlike traditional marriage, covenant marriage is exempt from the state’s no-fault divorce process, which means you will have to prove one of the following legal reasons in order to be granted a separation:

  • Abuse (physical or sexual)
  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Felony Conviction
  • Chemical Dependency
  • If you and your spouse have been living apart or separated for a minimum of two years without reconciliation (if it is a court-approved legal separation, then you only need to live separately for one year, or 18 months if you have kids).

3. What Are the Legal Separation Basics: Who Can File, How to File, and What Takes Place During the Process?

The only way to get a legal separation in Louisiana is if you are a couple in a covenant marriage. To proceed with the legal separation, you will need to provide the court with a legitimate reason for separation. In addition, you will need to complete marital counseling before a judge grants you the petition to separate.  To make sure the legal separation process is done correctly, it is essential to remember the following requirements:

States Residence Requirement

The first requirement indicates that at least one spouse needs to have lived in Louisiana for at least one year before the separation filing.

The Contract

In addition, it is vital that you work with your spouse to negotiate the specific terms of the separation agreement, which include:

  • Custody and Visitation
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Property and Debt Division

Once you have this legal-binding agreement in place, you will present the written agreement to the judge for approval. If the court finds the agreement fair to both spouses, then the judge will sign and finalize the separation.

4. Why Couples Choose Separation and What Comes Next

Most individuals understand that each marriage is unique. That is why there is no right or wrong reason to pursue a separation over a divorce. However, some of the more common reasons that couples choose the separation route include:

  • Complex Process: Frequently, couples that have entered covenant marriages find that terminating their marriage is a complex process, and meeting the elements for separation is much easier.
  • Not Ready for Divorce: Some couples may not be ready for a divorce, whether for social, moral, or religious reasons. And in compromise, they find that separation provides them with the space they need without the permanent outcome. They remained married but have a separation agreement in place that spells out support and custody, making life easier.  If they are ready to proceed with a divorce or would like to pursue another marriage, the couple would need to get the court to convert the separation into a formal divorce.
  • Financial Benefits: Certain spouses may have accumulated federal benefits or valuable tax that would be terminated with a divorce.

At the end of the day, just remember your needs and your family’s needs come first. That is why if you would like to proceed with a legal separation, make sure you consult with an experienced family law attorney that can walk you through the whole legal process and ensure everything is filed correctly.