Serving an Absent Spouse with Divorce Papers in Louisiana

Nov 28


Will Beaumont

Will Beaumont

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Just because you cannot find your spouse, this does not mean that you cannot get a divorce in Louisiana. It just means that you will likely have to use a curator.


It is common for a client to call up and request from a family law attorney a simple divorce, Serving an Absent Spouse with Divorce Papers in Louisiana Articles but there are a sizable chunk of these where the other spouse is nowhere to be found.  This happens so often that it is in some way normal.  The way that this happens is that the parties instead of getting a divorce they simply begin to live separate and apart from each other.  Eventually, though, one of them finds there is a reason that they need to legally end the marriage.  This could be because they need to do this in order to get financing for their home.  Or it could also be that they need to get medical support from the government.

Regardless of the reason, in Louisiana it is not possible to get a divorce unless you serve at least someone with the legal paperwork.  If you do not know the whereabouts of your spouse, you may request of the court that it appoint an attorney to represent the absent person which will allow you to serve this lawyer as opposed to directly serving the other spouse.  This lawyer is formally called a curator, and they have several duties to the court and to the absent person that they represent.

The usual procedure of the curator attorney who is representing a spouse in a divorce proceeding is that they will answer the petition, usually denying all the allegations in the petition due to lack of information to justify a belief therein.  The curator lawyer then will attempt to look for the missing person by sending a certified copy of the petition by registered mail to the last known whereabouts of the person that they are representing.

If the letter is not claimed, then the lawyer will place an ad in the local newspaper of the last known address requesting anyone knowing the whereabouts of the missing person to contact the attorney that has been represented.  If there is no response to this, then the lawyer will let the person’s counsel know so that they can file a motion to set the matter for trial.  At trial, the parties need to memorialize what was done to find the missing spouse.

If the spouse is found at any point during the proceedings, the curator’s job is simply to serve them with the divorce papers. After service, the normal timelines apply for responding to a lawsuit.  If a response is not done within the proper amount of time, then a default judgment can be obtained.  If they do respond in time, then either party can file a motion for trial in order that the parties can be heard.

One last point is that the curator attorney’s fees are typically set by the court.  And they range from $350.00 to $450.00 in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.  This does not include the costs for placing the ad which is usually $100.00.  To save on some of these fees, it can sometimes be prudent to request that a law school clinic be appointed as the curators.

Will Beaumont is a lawyer in Metairie & New Orleans. This article is informational, not legal advice.