Location Location Location: There’s No Place Like Home

Litigants in Louisiana courts may find complying with the special rules that are used to divide their marital property expensive, confusing, and time consuming. Necessary delays while those rules are being followed worsen the frustration of owning property with someone you no longer love – and may even despise. This is particularly so if an ex-spouse lives on the property and you do not. Although each district is different, family court case loads may be heavier than case loads in the district courts. In short, sometimes the grass on the district court side of the fence looks greener than the grass on the family court side. However, as the plaintiff learned in the following case, litigating in the right court – using the right law – is critical in marital property cases. In Tanana v. Tanana, 12-1013 (La. App. 1st Cir. 5/31/13), 140 So.3d 738, Mr. and Mrs. Tanana agreed as part of the partition of their marital property that they would put the former family home up for sale. Mrs. Tanana was allowed to live on the property pending sale. Unfortunately, the home did not sell even after five years. Although the home was clearly former community property, Mr.Tanana elected to attempt to partition the property in a district court proceeding using the law applicable to non-marital property. That law entitled him to have the property sold at a sheriff’s sale over Mrs. Tanana’s objection. At the sheriff’s sale, Mr. Tanana bought the home for a sum arguably less than what it would have brought at a private sale as they had originally agreed. Mrs. Tanana appealed arguing that Mr. Tanana should have proceeded in the family court using the special partition rules applicable to former community property. The Court of Appeal agreed with Mrs. Tanana. It reversed the trial judge’s decision, rescinded the sale to Mr. Tanana, and ordered the parties to litigate in the family court using the special partition rules applicable to marital assets. In community property cases, patience is not only a virtue, it is often a necessity. Consult with your lawyer about any delays in your community property proceeding and make sure you understand why it is taking so long.

Hope For The Best, Plan For The Worst – Separate Property in Louisiana

LOS ANGELES – JUL 19: Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie arrive at the “Salt” Premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on July19, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have married!

They have lived together, unmarried, for a number of years.  Both are undoubtedly very wealthy.  They have borne and adopted children.  What can their lives together to date and their change in legal status tell the rest of us?

In Louisiana, couples who live together without marrying are governed by different rules than those who marry. The unmarried are similar to roommates. Unless they enter into legal transactions with each other such as contracts or donations, they have no legal relationships that might complicate one person’s decision to move out. If one person decides to leave the other, he can take his wealth with him without adverse consequences.

Likewise, if two people decide to marry, the assets they have separately accumulated do not become jointly owned simply because a marriage has occurred.   Both before and after marriage, complications can arise if the couple does not keep what is mine mine and what is his his. Commingling separate property with property acquired after marriage can result in an accountant’s nightmare if the marriage later fails. If you or your spouse to be have significant separate property in Louisiana, you should consult with a Louisiana attorney concerning how best to plan your after-marriage estate.

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Recipe for Indigestion – Is Winning Chili Recipe Community Property?

Hot cilli con carne cooked in the pan

Three thousand people attended the 8th annual Louisiana Regional and State Chili Cook-Off at LSU in March 2014.  What if one of the lucky winners is asked to sell their secret recipe for a large chilipot of cash?

In Louisiana, this possibility gives rise to numerous legal questions.  Suppose that Mr. H. A. LaPeno obtained his winning recipe from his former wife, Cy Lantro.  Ms. Lantro might contend that the recipe was her separate property having obtained it from her grandmother on the latter’s death bed as a gift.

  • Would Mr. LaPeno’s use of the recipe constitute a conversion of Ms. Lantro’s asset and entitle her to sue her ex-husband?
  • Would it make a difference if Mr. LaPeno had enhanced the recipe with beans and extra chili powder?

In such circumstances, Ms. Lantro would need not only the advice of a lawyer specializing in the law of recipe copyrights and other types of “intellectual property” but also the advice of a lawyer with knowledge of Louisiana’s community property laws.  Ultimately, the value of the chili recipe will determine whether it is worth the financial investment that Ms. Lantro will be required to make in order to fight about it.  She may decide simply to eat and run.