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. 1 st 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 It reversed the trial judge’s decision, rescinded the sale to Mr.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.