Articles Posted in Louisiana Supreme Court

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At issue in this case was a post-divorce community property partition. The former husband, Daniel Webb, filed a claim for reimbursement and for the classification of a promissory note of $250,000 as a community obligation. The promissory note corresponded to a loan secured by a mortgage on the family home. Mr. Webb contended that Mrs. Webb owed reimbursement for loan payments and that the loan should be considered a community obligation because he borrowed the money to pay community debts. Mr. Webb admitted that he caused a forged signature for Mrs. Webb to be placed on the loan documents and that he concealed the existence of the loan and the mortgage on the family home from her. The forgery was eventually discovered, and formal attorney disciplinary charges were brought against him, a Louisiana-licensed attorney. In the ensuing disciplinary proceedings, Mr. Webb admitted his misconduct, but represented to this court that he was taking “sole financial responsibility” and“full responsibility” for the loan and was otherwise committed to “making right” what he had done. Shortly after the disciplinary order was issued, Mr. Webb returned to the district court where the community property partition was pending. There, Mr. Webb claimed that, although he personally incurred the $250,000 debt, responsibility for the loan should be an obligation shared by both Mr. and Mrs. Webb, rather than solely by Mr. Webb. The district court rejected Mr. Webb’s claim, finding that Mr. Webb’s representations in his attorney discipline case amounted to a judicial confession that he alone was responsible for the debt. Mr. Webb appealed, and the appellate court ruled in his favor by classifying the loan as a community obligation and ordering Mrs. Webb to personally reimburse Mr. Webb for loan payments he made after the community property regime was terminated. Mrs. Webb sought review by the Louisiana Supreme Court, arguing Mr. Webb's admission in his disciplinary hearing precluded him from making her partly responsible for his loan. Applying the doctrine of judicial estoppel, the Supreme Court held that in the community property litigation, Mr. Webb could not shift responsibility for his fraudulent loan to Mrs. Webb. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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The biological mother of a child placed under guardianship with the child’s paternal great-aunt filed a petition to terminate that guardianship and to regain custody of the child. Following a three-day trial, the district court terminated the guardianship and awarded joint custody of the child to the guardian and the biological mother, with the mother designated as the domiciliary custodian. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed the district court judgment, reinstated the guardianship, and remanded the case to the district court for purposes of establishing a visitation schedule for the mother. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari to assess whether the correct legal standards were applied by the lower courts, and to review the correctness of the district court’s determination that the guardianship should be terminated. The Court held that the proper standard for determining whether an order of guardianship should be modified or terminated was statutorily prescribed by Article 724 of the Children’s Code, which, in this case, required proof by the movant/mother by “clear and convincing evidence” of “a substantial and material change in the circumstances of the guardian or child” because either “[c]ontinuation of the guardianship is so deleterious to the child as to justify a modification or termination of the relationship” or “the harm likely to be caused from a change in the guardianship is substantially outweighed by the advantages to the child of the modification.” Weighing the evidence in light of that evidentiary burden, the Court agreed with the court of appeal’s assessment that the district court erred in determining that the mother met her burden of proving the guardianship should be terminated. Therefore, the Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reinstating the guardianship order. View "In re: L.M.M., JR." on Justia Law

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The district court found clear and convincing evidence that supported at least one ground for termination of parental rights, but it nevertheless concluded termination was not in the best interest of the child. The Louisiana Supreme Court found the district court was clearly wrong in finding that termination of the father’s parental rights was not in the best interest of the child. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court's judgment and rendered judgment terminating the rights of the father and allowing the child to be adopted. View "Louisiana in the interest of C.F." on Justia 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

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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

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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

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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

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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