What is a Community Property Partition?
In Louisiana, when the parties are going through a divorce, an equitable division of the assets and debts acquired during the marriage must occur. This is called a community property partition. Dividing up the assets and debts between the parties can take more time than most people realize to finalize. If the spouses cannot reach an agreement on how to divide up everything, then trial may be necessary to finalize the division of the former community's assets and debts.
Time Delays Must Lapse Before Trial
Prior to being able to go trial, and often prior to reaching an agreement, there are procedures set forth by law that must be followed. First, a petition to partition the community property must be filed. This Petition requests that each party begin valuing the community's assets and debts. These values are listed in a document called a “detailed descriptive list”. Each party must prepare a detailed descriptive list and it must be filed with the court within 45 days of service of the petition to partition.
What happens if one party doesn't file a detailed descriptive list?
If one party has not filed a detailed descriptive list, then the other party may file a motion to have their detailed descriptive list deemed determinative, or “the list.” This means, after a hearing, the Court rules the only detailed descriptive list filed into the record adequately represents the assets and debts of the parties.
What happens if both parties file a detailed descriptive list?
Once each party has filed a detailed descriptive list and the actual property listed or values set forth are not the same, then the parties have 60 days to file to traverse the detailed descriptive list. This traversal filing sets the matter for a hearing in which each party will present evidence as to why an asset or debt should or should not be included on the detailed descriptive list, as well as his/her determination of value of the asset or debt. The Court's ruling sets the final detailed descriptive list which identifies each item in the community, asset and debt, as well as its value.
What Happens at Trial?
After all of the steps above are completed and the parties actually get to the trial on the division of the community property, the court shall divide the assets and debts equally between the parties. Should an asset not be capable of being divided equally, the court can order the payment of an equalizing sum of money, or the item to be sold and the proceeds split between the parties.
Many attorneys may advocate for his/her client to utilize mediation to resolve community property matters for two key reasons: (1) mediation is a much shorter process than the one listed above, and (2) the client gets to decide what deals he/she may want to make, instead of leaving it to the Court to decide.