Five Tips from a Local Divorce Lawyer
Things to consider, especially if a business is involved.
We need to talk.
You may have been considering it for a long time, or you may not have seen it coming, but as soon as a decision is made to seek a divorce, you need to get a jump on preparations.
Hire a family law specialist. Surprisingly, many wait to take this step, concerned about the cost of hiring a lawyer. Others delay, hoping a lawyer friend will shepherd them along. Both decisions cost more money than they save. Your lawyer friend may be there to support you emotionally, and can help you understand some basic legal concepts, but in Louisiana, family law is a unique practice area with its own set of challenges and dynamics. It is better to have a specialist with you from day one, to help you plan and protect what’s important to you.
Be proactive. Planning is very important. In the initial consultation, discuss every concern you have in order to give your family specialist the best overview of your situation. Consider how the divorce will affect your children, your family home, your business, your investments. Your attorney will file requests with the court to seek immediate relief in the form of restraining orders and injunctions, emergency access to children, to the family home, even to liquid assets to pay attorney’s fees and court costs.
Consider terminating your community regime. In Louisiana, all spouses who do not have an agreement to the contrary are considered members of a community property regime. That means all assets and debts incurred during marriage by either spouse are the property of and responsibility of the spouses jointly. If one spouse is incurring a lot of debt, whether it be through excessive spending, gambling or wasteful behavior, and the community is at risk, the court can terminate the community. Once the community is terminated, the spouses remain co-owners of the assets and debts they acquired during the marriage, but all new assets and debts incurred after the termination belong to the spouse who incurred them. This gives peace of mind to both spouses, ideally, because the one incurring the debt feels independent and free to do what they want, and the spouse without responsibility for the debt feels relieved of the pressure created by the other’s spending habits.
Consider a matrimonial agreement. Whether you call it a prenup or a postnup, if you and your spouse can come to an agreement about what happens to your assets and your debt in the event of a split, it is efficient to have that put into a contract either before the marriage begins or prior to its ending. The agreement can be recorded and will bind third parties. Once you’re married, though, a court will have to approve the arrangement.
Can you trust your spouse to run your business? If you and your spouse are partners or managers of a community enterprise, you are expected to work together. This can create conflict in an already trying circumstance. In some cases, a business owner spouse can be granted authority over business affairs during the divorce. If your spouse is acting irresponsibly or threatening the viability of the business, a court may consider it prudent to put you in control.
Talking with a divorce attorney about your divorce should help you feel more confident, organized and in control of what happens next. Plan carefully, and good luck.
Elizabeth S. Meneray is sole owner and manager of Meneray Family Law, L.L.C., a specialty legal practice in New Orleans focused exclusively on domestic issues, including divorce, community property division, child custody, child and spousal support and adoptions. She presents frequently to members of the Louisiana State Bar Association on family law topics and has been recognized by her peers as a top family attorney in New Orleans Magazine and a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.