Articles Posted in Family Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this case to resolve a split among the appellate courts regarding the proper interpretation of La. Civ. Code art. 2331. Specifically, the question to resolve involved determining whether parties must duly acknowledge their signatures prior to the marriage in order for the matrimonial agreement to have legal effect. The Supreme Court found the acknowledgment of the signatures to be a form requirement, and the failure to meet all form requirements prior to the marriage rendered the matrimonial agreement invalid. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and reinstated the district court judgment. View "Acurio v. Acurio" on Justia Law

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David Caballero filed a Petition for Partition of Property against his former wife, Teresa Caballero seeking to partition the community property acquired during the marriage. The Family Court amended its judgment to award Teresa over $1.5 million, which included her claim to have of David's alleged underpaid income from Home Servicing, LLC (Home). David filed a devolutive appeal from the amended judgment which pending. Because David did not file a suspensive appeal, Teresa sought to enforce the judgment against him. Teresa requested issuance of a writ of fieri fascias seizing David’s alleged membership interest in Home. Teresa asserted that 56.8% of Home’s membership interests were owned by Prime Acquisitions, L.L.C. (“Prime”), which was wholly owned by David. Teresa further asserted that prior to the court’s amended judgment, David caused Prime to donate its interest in Home to himself via an Act of Distribution and then formally dissolved Prime. Thus, according to Teresa, all of Prime’s remaining assets and liabilities devolved to David pursuant to the laws governing dissolution of limited liability companies. Teresa filed a notice of a corporate and records deposition, and issued a subpoena duces tecum seeking certain business records from Home. Following limited, unsuccessful settlement discussions regarding the scope of documents to be produced pursuant to the subpoena, Home filed an exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and a motion to quash the subpoena duces tecum, arguing the Family Court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over a third party in a garnishment proceeding. After a hearing, the Family Court overruled the exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction and deferred ruling on the motion to quash. The court of appeal reversed the Family Court’s ruling and sustained Home’s exception of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Teresa then sought certiorari review from the Supreme Court. Finding that the Family Court had jurisdiction, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Caballero v. Caballero" on Justia Law

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"Grappling with whether a child should be moved from what is oftentimes perceived as the stable and long-standing environment provided by a non-parent who has been awarded custody as a domiciliary parent, the appellate courts have developed different approaches for evaluating the request of a biological parent to be awarded domiciliary parent status." This matter involved a custody dispute between the biological father and the maternal grandmother, who was designated as the domiciliary parent in a consent decree. Because of conflicting analysis of this issue by the courts of appeal, the Louisiana Supreme Court granted a writ to determine the standard for adjudicating a request for increased custodial rights brought by a biological parent who shared joint custody with a grandparent, and the biological parent had earlier stipulated that the grandparent should be designated as having the rights and responsibilities of a domiciliary parent. Applying the "best-interest-of-the-child" standard, the Court found that in this case, the biological father satisfied the first element of proof in the best-interest analysis: there has been a material change in circumstances after the original custody award. However, the biological father failed to prove that a modification from the long-standing and stable environment the child had experienced while domiciled in the home of the grandparent would be in the child’s best interest. The Court ultimately affirmed the appellate court's judgment to maintain the joint custody arrangement with the grandparent as domiciliary parent. View "Tracie F. v. Francisco D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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In this termination of parental rights case, the court of appeal overruled the juvenile court and sustained the biological parents’ peremptory exception of no right of action, on the basis the couple having custody of the child did not possess a private right of action to petition for termination of parental rights under La. Ch. Code art. 1004. The Louisiana Supreme Court found that the appellate court erred in concluding the petition was improperly brought by private counsel for the custodians upon approval of the juvenile court. View "Louisiana in the interest of K.C.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this child custody matter to review the designation of both parents as “co-domiciliary parents,” a designation which divided the courts of appeal. Both the father and the mother sought joint custody of the minor child, M.H., as well as to be designated as the child’s domiciliary parent. After a hearing, the trial court granted joint custody to the parents, ordered equal physical custody to be alternated weekly, and designated both parties as “co-domiciliary parents.” The mother appealed, contending that designation of both parents as “co-domiciliary parents” was not authorized by La. R.S. 9:335. She sought to be named as the sole domiciliary parent. The appellate court affirmed the “co-domiciliary” designation, but ruled that no valid joint custody implementation order had been rendered, and remanded the case to the trial court “for the entry of a joint custody implementation order allocating the legal authority and responsibility of the parents with regard to the health, education, and welfare of the child.” On appeal to the Supreme Court, the mother argued that the trial court’s judgment was insufficient to constitute a joint custody implementation order. According to the mother, the judgment addresses physical custody, but failed to designate which parent has decision-making authority for the child. The mother urges that under La. R.S. 9:335, there can only be one domiciliary parent. Read as a whole, the Court concluded the plain language of La. R.S. 9:335 manifested the legislature’s clear intent to establish a custodial system in which a child has a domiciliary parent and no more than one such parent. “The text is clear.” The case was remanded to the trial court for a prompt hearing and determination on how joint custody should be implemented, consistent with the Court’s opinion excluding the possibility of designating both parents as “co-domiciliary.” View "Hodges v. Hodges" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Joseph E. Boudreaux, II and Jennifer Boudreaux were married in 1997, divorced in 2011. The couple had two children during their marriage. The parties entered into a consent judgment with regard to custody, visitation, and child support. In September 2011, Joseph filed a rule to change custody and reduce child support. The trial court modified the custody arrangement, but denied the motion to reduce the child support amount. Joseph applied for services through the Department of Child and Family Services ("DCFS"), applying for support enforcement services available through the IV-D program, which allowed him to pay his support obligation directly to DCFS, who, as the new payee, would then tender the amount to Jennifer. In exchange for the services, he paid a twenty-five dollar registration fee, as well as a monthly administrative fee assessed by DCFS in the amount of five percent of his support obligation. This administrative fee was assessed in addition to his full support obligation. Joseph again moved to reduce his child support payments. Relying on La. R.S. 46:236.1.2 and 42 U.S.C. 654 (B)(i)-(ii), Jennifer filed an exception of no right of action, arguing DCFS had no right to intercede because the claim was not properly within the jurisdiction of IV-D categories over which a hearing officer has authority. In particular, she asserted that in order to invoke the services of DCFS, one must be receiving public benefits or delinquent in their child support payments. Jennifer's exception was denied, and the trial court ultimately reduced Joseph's child support. The court of appeal reversed, holding Joseph did not meet the requirements of the IV-D program. The Supreme Court reviewed this case to determine whether the court of appeal erred in its reversal. Finding that it did, the Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "Boudreaux v. Boudreaux" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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This was a legal malpractice case. Defendant Michelle Myer-Bennett filed a peremptory exception of peremption asserting plaintiff Tracy Lomont filed her malpractice claim beyond the three-year peremptive period set forth in La. R.S. 9:5605. Lomont opposed the exception, arguing the peremptive period should not have applied because Myer-Bennett engaged in fraudulent behavior which prevented application of the peremptive period. Lomont hired Myer-Bennett to represent her in a divorce and related domestic matters, which included partitioning the community property. Citibank obtained a default judgment against John Lomont (the ex-husband) on a delinquent account. Citibank recorded the judgment in the mortgage records in Jefferson Parish as a lien against the home. Lomont attempted to refinance the mortgage on the home and learned from the bank that the settlement agreement, giving her full ownership of the home, was never recorded in the mortgage and conveyance records. Lomont contacted Myer-Bennett to advise her of the problem. According to Myer-Bennett, because it was her standard practice to record such documents, she initially believed Lomont was given inaccurate information by the bank. Upon investigation, Myer-Bennett discovered that she had not recorded the agreement. Myer-Bennett recorded the agreement the next day, September 30, 2010. In December 2010, Lomont was notified that her application to refinance the loan was denied because of Citibank’s lien on the property. According to Myer-Bennett, once she became aware of the Citibank lien she discussed with Lomont the fact she committed malpractice and gave Lomont several options to proceed, including hiring another lawyer to sue her, or allowing Myer-Bennett to file suit against John Lomont and/or Citibank to have the lien removed. Myer-Bennett stated. Lomont chose not to pursue a malpractice action, but wanted defendant to fix the problem. Lomont denied Myer-Bennett ever notified her she had committed malpractice. Lomont contended Myer-Bennett never mentioned malpractice in December 2010, but simply advised she would have the Citibank lien removed from the property by filing lawsuits against John Lomont and Citibank. The district court sustained the exception of peremption and the court of appeal affirmed. Based on the facts of this case, the Supreme Court found defendant committed fraud within the meaning of La. R.S. 9:5605(E). Thus, the peremptive periods contained in La. R.S. 9:5605 were not applicable and plaintiff’s legal malpractice claim was governed by the one-year prescriptive period in La. C.C. art. 3492. Further, the facts of this case supported an application of the doctrine of contra non valentem. Because the Court found plaintiff filed suit within one year of discovering defendant’s malpractice, the Court held the lower courts erred in sustaining defendant’s exception of peremption. View "Lomont v. Myer-Bennett" on Justia Law

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In December of 2002 Thomas Lowrie married Melissa Lowrie, who gave birth to two children during the marriage: A.L., born February 2003; and B.W., born May 2009. In October of 2010 the Lowries were divorced. Although the children were born during the marriage, Mr. Lowrie, believing that Stephen Wetzel was the biological father of the children, sought to disavow paternity of the children. Mr. Lowrie successfully disavowed paternity of the younger child, B.W., in January of 2011; however, his action to disavow the older child, A.L., was found to be untimely. Therefore, Mr. Lowrie remained the legal father of A.L. In September of 2012, the State Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) filed an action against Mr. Lowrie, seeking medical and child support for A.L. DCFS alleged that it was providing services for A.L., which created a cause of action in favor of the State pursuant to the State's child support enforcement law. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether an alleged biological father should have been joined in a child support enforcement action, filed pursuant to LSA-R.S. 46:236.1.1 et seq. against the legally-presumed father. The juvenile court denied joinder, and the appellate court denied writs. Concluding that a biological father owes an obligation of support to his child, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Louisiana v. Lowrie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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This case concerned a highly contested custody dispute over three minor children. After an eleven-day trial and extensive written reasons for judgment, the trial court awarded sole custody of the children to the father and conditionally reserved visitation privileges to the mother. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for a new trial. The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court was whether the court of appeal erred in finding the trial court abused its discretion in prohibiting the children from testifying at trial and not relying on a sexual abuse evaluation. After careful consideration, the Court found no abuse of the trial court’s discretion nor did it find any manifest error. The Court reversed the court of appeal’s judgment and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "C.M.J. v. L.M.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The issue in this case stemmed from the divorce action between Lange Allen and Susan Allen, for the partition of separately owned property, a 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser, and restitution of separate property. The parties entered in a matrimonial agreement establishing a regime of separation of property before their marriage. The vehicle at issue was acquired during their marriage. The Supreme Court granted this writ application to determine whether the family court divisions of the Twenty-Second Judicial District Court had subject matter jurisdiction over partition proceedings involving divorcing spouses’ separate property. Finding these courts had subject matter jurisdiction over those matters, the Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. View "Allen v. Allen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law