Divorce: Discussing Separate Property That Stays Separate in Louisiana
Louisiana recognizes separate and community property in Louisiana. This distinction can become important upon divorce. This article goes into a general explanation of separate property.
In year eleven of the marriage, Tom finds out that his mother has just died. As it turns out, she has left a will. In the will there are two provisions which have a direct bearing on Tom: one is a provision which bequeaths to Tom (and Tom alone) a prized and one of kind Picasso painting. The other provision bequeaths to Tom and Rita jointly (the provision specifically includes Rita’s name) another prized painting by Salvador Dali. Although Tom’s mother has just died, the passing is bittersweet because both he and Rita absolutely love the paintings.
In year twelve of the marriage, there is a little friction between Tom and Rita, which ultimately moves Rita to file divorce papers. Rita is going through their filing cabinet one day, and she finds a folder entitled “Houseboat” which she had never seen before. Upon further investigation Rita discovers that the file contains the ownership papers for an actual houseboat which Tom had apparently purchased twenty years ago. Rita confronts Tom about the houseboat and he comes clean. He explains that it has always been his very private getaway which he had kept secret from the whole world. He did not tell Rita because he did not think it was that important. Rita demands to see the houseboat immediately. The couple drives out to Lake Pontchartrain where it is moored, and Rita inspects it. It turns out that Rita is something of an aficionado of houseboats, because she used to apprise them while working in Paris for a realty company. It is her opinion that Tom’s houseboat is very rare, and worth millions of dollars. As a penalty for never telling her about it, Rita demands that Tom declare it half her property as well. He verbally assents, but does nothing more.
The next week, the couple files for divorce.
In Louisiana, it is generally true that all property accrued by husband and wife during the marriage will be divided evenly if they get a divorce. If property is not community property, then it is normally classified as separate property. There are a few general rules about classifying property as community or separate which we might apply to the above scenario. If property is purchased before the marriage, it is separate property. This would include, apparently, Tom’s houseboat. Also, generally things which were purchased during the course of the marriage with money earned by the spouses during the marriage are typically considered “community property.” This would include all of Tom and Rita’s purchases prior to the divorce. Things inherited, like the paintings, are the separate property of the person who inherited them. In the case of the Dali painting however, it was bequeathed specifically to both spouses, and so will likely be community.
This above is informational only, not legal advice. Will Beaumont. New Orleans.
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A community property division can be challenging. Separate and community property is typically fact intensive. In New Orleans, divorce professionals are used to dealing with such issues and will likely be able to provide further assistance.