Frequently Asked Legal and Personal Questions
Frequently Asked Legal Questions
Q: Can I buy a house in my name now that the divorce has been filed?
A: That depends. If you and your spouse were in community, the community is not dissolved until you get a court order OR you get the final divorce. If you attempt to buy a house before either of those occur, then the lender will require your spouse's signature acknowledging that you are purchasing the house with your separate funds. If you have a divorce action filed and you have lived separate and apart for 30 days or more, you can move to terminate the community now.
Q: I have three children. My oldest is turning 18 in October. Will my child support automatically be reduced then?
A: No. IF your judgment allocated support per child, this child's portion of the support would terminate when he graduates from high school or when he turns 18, whichever is later (but no later than when he turns 19). If your judgment just awarded one flat child support sum, then nothing is automatically reduced. Your ex-spouse would have to file a motion with the court to reduce child support. It may not be to your ex-spouse's benefit to file such a motion, since the child support chart is revised occasionally to increase child support awards. It might thus be likely that your ex-spouse earns more money now than at the time of the original judgment.
Q: How long does it take to get a divorce, once the petition gets filed?
A: It depends upon a variety of factors. If you have already been living separate and apart for more than six months, you can get a divorce quickly once a petition has been filed and the other party has been served. Often, no court appearance is necessary. At the present time, if you have not been physically separated long enough, you can go ahead and file a petition for divorce, wait 180 days (approximately six months) from the date of filing and the date of physical separation, then ask the court to require the other spouse to show cause why you should not be granted a divorce.
The Louisiana legislature recently passed a new requirement that divorcing couples with minor children must be physically separated at least a year after the initial filing before proceeding with the divorce.
There are various procedural steps and details not mentioned here connected with each of these processes, so it is advised that you consult with an attorney to determine which method is proper and to make sure that all legal requirements are met so that the divorce is valid.
Q: If a woman is happily married, but simply wants to return to using her maiden name, how does she do so?
A: It has long been a custom that women change their surname to that of their husband. According to Louisiana Civil Code Article 100 and Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 3947, however, a woman’s name does not legally change with marriage. She can simply revert to using her maiden name at any time.
She must inform the appropriate government agencies that she is doing so and bring along a certified copy of her birth certificate so she can acquire a new driver’s license, new Social Security card, etc. She may encounter some resistance from workers at those agencies who are not well-informed about the law, so she should be prepared to cite the provisions of the laws mentioned above to anyone who tells her erroneously that she cannot do so without obtaining a divorce or court order. Those articles state, "Marriage does not change the name of either spouse. However, a married person may use the surname of either or both spouses as a surname."
Q: What is the process for legally changing one’s name?
A: The laws governing this procedure are found at La. R.S. 13:4751. The person seeking to have his or her name changed files a petition in district court. The defendant is the district attorney, who represents the state, and is the person upon whom the petition is served. After the D.A.’s office determines that the name change is not being requested for any criminal purpose, an answer is filed and the duty judge, with or without a hearing can sign a judgment. Once a certified copy of the judgment is obtained, the petitioner must send a copy to the state registrar of vital records so that his or her birth certificate can be altered to reflect the name change.
Frequently Asked Personal Questions
Q: Your last name differs from that of your husband, your children and your parents. Where does the name Callaghan come from?
A: In 1992, shortly before my senior year in law school, I decided to stop using my former married name, so that when I received my diploma and began practicing law, I would have my own identity. Rather than revert to my maiden name, I chose to legally change my last name to Callaghan, which was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name.
I kept my own maiden name, Richard, as my middle name. My grandmother, Abigail Callaghan Richard, was born in 1900 and earned a college degree in an era when few women obtained an advanced education. She also taught school and later became postmaster of Sunshine, La., so she had a career in an era when most women did not have careers. I admired my grandmother, and have been told that we are very much alike, so it seemed appropriate to take her name as mine. The fact that my first name is Irish was an added incentive for me to acquire an Irish last name!
I began practicing law in 1993 and married John Broussard in 1997. I did not want to change my name again, so Callaghan it is, and Callaghan it will stay. (John kept his name too!).
Q: How old are your children and what do they do?
A: My son, Max Magbee, is 34 years old. He is a graduate of the University of New Orleans, with majors in communications and film. He has always had an intense interest in the film industry, so his employment as an assistant editor at Digital FX Studios here in Baton Rouge is an ideal situation. Both of my children are gifted writers. While a student at UNO, Max wrote a movie review column for the student newspaper, "The Driftwood."
My daughter, Caitlin Magbee, is 28 years old and a graduate of Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana. She majored in English literature, with a minor in business administration. She too is a talented writer, which serves her well in her current profession with O’Berry-Cavanaugh, a public relations firm in Bozeman. Caitlin attended Ole Miss for two and a half years, then decided to move to Big Sky, Montana after working up there one summer. Since then, Caitlin has also worked in Denali National Park, Alaska and traveled throughout Europe. She has been a Montana resident since December 1998 and visits Baton Rouge about once a year.
Q: What kind of work does your husband do?
A: John is a systems analyst for the Louisiana Division of Administration. Basically, he is somewhat of a computer consultant, assisting other state employees in using the statewide computer system.