Louisianans who have problems in their marriage will sometimes decide that they will live separately for a time to determine how they will address the situation. While this is common, many will be unaware of how this can influence the divorce process. There are three grounds for divorce in the state and one is living separate and apart. Understanding the time periods and other considerations when a couple has taken this step is a key part of a case.

When a couple is living separately and apart, the duration must be a minimum of 180 days before there can be a divorce. This is the time-frame when there are no minor children involved. If there are minor children though, it will be 365 days.

If it is a covenant marriage, the rules are different. With a covenant marriage, there is a requirement that they have marital counseling before divorce. There are other limited justifications for a divorce or for the couple to separate. These rules may not apply if there was abuse in the marriage.

The couple must have lived separate and apart prior to filing the divorce petition. If the couple was living separately and apart for the necessary amount of time and it was continuous without reconciliation, either side can move forward with the divorce filing.

After filing the petition when the couple was living separately and apart, either party can ask for the divorce to be finalized after the time-frame — with or without children — has been met. If it is a covenant marriage and they have gotten counseling, they can get a divorce if the other spouse committed adultery, abandoned the spouse for at least one year, was physically or sexually abusive, the couple lived apart for two years or they lived apart for one year and they were separated from bed and board. There can be an immediate divorce if adultery was proven or the other spouse was convicted of a felony.

Deciding to end a marriage is a difficult decision and many people will choose to live apart to think about their circumstances before making such a life-changing choice. For those who have taken this step, it is critical to understand how the law handles the case.