Getting divorced can be expensive. Lawyer fees, court costs and service fees can add up quickly, making divorce appear to be inaccessible to some because of its cost. In Louisiana, it is possible for a couple to divorce for free if they meet the state’s qualifications for a free divorce.
Individuals who prove they cannot afford to file for divorce can have their divorce fees waived.
Filing Free Divorce Papers in Louisiana
When an individual files divorce papers in Louisiana, she can file in forma pauperis. This literally means filing “in the form of a pauper,” and it refers to filing a statement with the paperwork that waives the fees associated with filing it.
The filer must prove that he qualifies to file in forma pauperis in order to have his filing fees waived. The court has the discretion to determine whether a filing party qualifies for a fee waiver, which it does by examining information he provides about his current financial means, including:
- An income statement
- Proof that he receives public benefits
The court may require the filing party to appear at a hearing to determine whether he qualifies for a fee waiver.
If the court determines that the filer qualifies, it gives him a signed document acknowledging that he qualifies. He must file this document with his divorce paperwork to have the filing fee waived. The filing process can vary from court to court, so the individual filing for divorce must file his paperwork according to that court’s procedure.
Getting a Cheap Divorce in Louisiana
The fees for filing for divorce in Louisiana vary from parish to parish. Filing fees range from $200 to $350 throughout the state. The filing fee is due when the divorce paperwork is filed. Louisiana divorce forms can be obtained at district courthouses. An individual who plans to file for divorce must have lived in Louisiana for at least one year prior to filing for divorce. She can file her Louisiana divorce forms in the district court for the parish where she resides or the parish where her spouse resides, if they live in different parishes.
Filing in forma pauperis eliminates the court filing fee, but it cannot eliminate the additional expenses associated with getting divorced. However, there are ways a divorcing couple can keep divorce costs low and under certain circumstances, complete the divorce process for free.
One way to keep divorce costs low is to file an uncontested divorce. When both partners completely agree to their divorce’s terms, such as how their property will be divided and how they will co-parent their children, they can simply file documentation of their divorce agreements with the court to legally end their marriage. This eliminates the costs of litigation.
When an uncontested divorce is not feasible, a couple can still avoid litigation to reduce their divorce expenses. The couple can do this by choosing mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution that makes it possible for the couple to reach their own divorce settlement through a series of guided conversations with a neutral third party.
Reaching a Divorce Decree in Louisiana
Once the couple completes the requirements for reaching a divorce decree in Louisiana, the court can enter the settlement into its record and legally end the marriage. Waiving divorce filing and service fees does not mean getting divorced will be completely free for a couple. Rather, waiving these fees merely makes the legal process of divorce free. There are many other divorce-related expenses a couple can face, such as lawyer fees, the cost of hiring a third party professional like a real estate appraiser to help determine their assets’ value and the debt they each take on individually from their marital debt’s division.