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Louisiana State Bar
Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization 1993
Baton Rouge Bar Association
United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit
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Divorce and Dividing the House You Two Bought Before Marriage

Couples sometimes buy a house together before they are married. The house is jointly owned (that is, owned by both parties) but it is not subject to Louisiana’s community property laws. For example, if a house is community property, a judge has the ability to assign its ownership to either the husband or the wife, depending on other circumstances. The judge can consider, among other things, whether one party is in a better position to pay the mortgage and whether there is other property equal in value to the house that the judge can give to the other spouse.

If a piece of jointly owned real estate is not community property, the judge has only two alternatives. The first alternative is to divide the jointly owned property in kind. An “in kind” partition divides the jointly owned property into two pieces of equal value. For example, if the property is a ten-acre tract of land, and if equal value can be provided to each co-owner by dividing it into two pieces of five acres each, that is what the judge must do.

However, if it is a city lot with a house on it, there is usually no way to split the house and lot into two pieces so each owner can have one-half. The judge in this case must order the property sold at public sale. A public sale often results in the parties receiving less than the true fair market value of the house and land.

Many co-owners of property agree to list their property for sale before attempting to partition it in a lawsuit. Before they do, however, they must have a meeting of their minds on things like the listing real estate agent, the duration of the listing, the listing price, and how much each will receive out of any net sale proceeds. If one owner put a large down payment on the house, that owner will probably require repayment out of the sale price. These and other factors can complicate a private sale of jointly owned property. The devil is in the details.

If the two of you bought real estate in another state before you were married, things are even more complicated. The law of that state will probably apply and will probably establish the rules you must follow to divide it, by agreement or by sale. Your lawyer will probably need to consult with an attorney in that state to make sure your rights are protected. That lawyer will charge for his or her advice. The costs of your divorce and your partition of property are likely to go up.

If you and your spouse bought a home before you married, and you are divorcing, bring this fact to your lawyer’s attention. Your lawyer can include a request to partition the jointly owned property in your petition for divorce. Your lawyer can also help you develop an agreement for the sale of the property.

What Our Clients Say
I highly recommend Louis
I hired Louis to represent me in my custody battle. From the start he was upfront and honest with me, if he said he was going to do something he did it and he never attempted to settle for anything less than what I was asking. He was not afraid to go head to head with opposing counsel which is what we ended up having to do. Thanks to Louis and his experience and knowledge of family law we won our case. I highly recommend Louis and will always use him for my future family Court needs.
Brilliant Mind and Excellent Communication
I had no idea how to even look for an attorney when I found myself needing one. Mr. Cosenza is the best attorney I have encountered, and I took a lot of time finding one. He is brilliant in matters of the law. He approached my case from every angle. I am so thankful he was my attorney. I started out knowing absolutely nothing about court related matters. He answered even my smallest questions and guided me through to understand what was best for me and my children. He was excellent in communication with quick replies. He will have all of my recommendations.
Attorney Cosenza at his craft
My journey with Mr. Cosenza began nearly 3 years ago when I contacted him about divorce proceedings. During our initial consultation he told me exactly what to expect and we discussed cost, which I thought reasonable. After retaining him as my attorney and finalizing my divorce, things became fairly intense during the negotiation of the property settlement; yet he was relentless and tenacious. In the end, we prevailed victorious and everything came together perfectly. Attorney Cosenza always responded in a timely manner to my many calls, emails and texts. He gave clear, detailed, rational explanations of what I could expect. His work on my case has been life changing, in the best way possible. I am forever in his debt.
He does his very best
Working with Louis Cosenza truly helped to make my very difficult emotional and legal situation feel much more comfortable as I knew his experience and expertise was there to support and guide me. He knows the law and he does his very best to use that knowledge to represent his clients in and out of the courtroom.
Hands down the best experience I’ve had with a lawyer
I would like to start by saying I am from TX and my ex wife tried to file a judgment in LA. I contacted a number of lawyers that explained to me that this maybe a process that they could look into. I spoke with Mr. Cosenza with his 30 plus year of experience and he assured me this was not going to be a issue. He was very informative on the proceedings that where going to take place. He couldn’t have called it any better. There wasn’t even a need for me to travel to show in court. It is definitely worth a little extra to hire one of the best. I hope I hope won’t be needing his help again but if I do need another lawyer in LA. I won’t hesitate to contact him and he will be my lawyer again.