One of the first questions that a person contacting Bowers Law Firm at the beginning of a divorce usually has is, “What can I expect?” Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences that a person will go through. Fear of the unknown only makes the situation even more stressful. So, I want to shed some light on the general steps that will take place.
Generally, most divorces in Louisiana are going to be “no-fault.” This means that you do not have to prove that your spouse did anything wrong. Rather, you only must show the judge proof that you have lived separately for a certain period of time. If you have children under 18, you must live separately for 365 days. If you do not have children under 18, the time period is 180 days. Once you and your spouse have lived apart for the required time, then either spouse is legally entitled to get a judgment of divorce.
When you first meet with an attorney to discuss your options, they will need to ask you for a lot of information to help them evaluate and prepare your case. Be prepared to provide them with information about when you were married, where you were married, whether you had a covenant marriage, whether you have children under 18, your income and employment information, your spouse’s income and employment information, your household expenses, property that you and your spouse have purchased since you were married, and the reason(s) that you or your spouse is wanting to get a divorce. This information is necessary for the attorney to properly evaluate your potential claims for child custody, child support, spousal support, division of community property, reimbursement claims, use of certain community property while the divorce is pending, and possible need for injunctions/restraining orders.
The first interview will probably seem rather overwhelming. Many times, clients are apologetic for being emotional or upset. However, that is a completely normal way to feel! My personal philosophy is that lawyers are a helping profession. We are here to not only help you understand your legal rights but also to help be a part of your support process as you go through this significant and life changing event. This is an obligation I take very seriously.
After the first interview, a Petition for Divorce is prepared for the client. The petition lays out all the client’s legal claims for divorce, custody, support, etc. Usually, this will also involve sending requests for information to the other side to help prepare for court. Once the Petition is filed, the judge will issue an Order setting a hearing date to hear the claims for custody, support, injunctive relief, etc. The Petition and Order will be served on the other person by the Deputy Sheriff or the other person can agree to sign a waiver of service. Typically, court hearings are scheduled four to six weeks from the date the judge signs the Order. During this time, the other side will usually file an answer to the petition and submit their own requests for information. This is called the discovery phase.
The majority of the time, cases are resolved by the parties on or before the first court date. The ultimate outcome of your case affects your life, so you are always the one who is in control of what steps are taken in your case by your attorney. It is our job to advise you. However, no attorney should ever be forcing to make decisions that will affect the path of your life.
This post is meant to give you a general idea on how the process works. If you have a specific issue you would like to see discussed (example: how does the court compute child support), post them in the comments below. Please be aware that I cannot comment on specific cases on this blog. We are happy to schedule a consultation with you to discuss specific questions about your case.
Thanks for reading, and come back soon!