Let’s say Jack and Jill were high school sweethearts that lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana who knew each other because each had a parent that was a divorce attorney. Immediately after graduating high school, the couple decided to get married. For the first few years, the marriage was absolutely great. Both of them found jobs in the medical field, and relocated to a suburb of New Orleans. After relocating, and using the money which they were making from their jobs, they purchased a lot outside the city. Then they together paid to have a house built on the lot. In a year’s time Jack and Jill moved into their new beautiful home, situated on about five acres of land.
The years passed. Jack and Jill repeatedly tried to conceive children, but with no luck. Eventually they decided to go to a doctor, where it was discovered that Jack was actually sterile. He could not conceive children. This struck quite a blow to the couples’ marriage, and it began what became a ten year downhill stretch between them. They began to bicker constantly. Jack became obsessed with the idea that Jill was cheating on him. Jill, while she forgave Jack for his insufficiencies, really wanted children very badly. She was afraid that if she stayed with Jack this dream would never be realized. Jack suggested adoption, but Jill wanted to have children of her own. After ten years of marriage, Jill asked a New Orleans divorce attorney to end the marriage. Jack was heart-broken. Jill moved out of the home that they shared and moved into an apartment in the city. Jill’s divorce attorney requested that the community regime be terminated.
Jack was always predisposed to bipolar disorder. He oftentimes suffered extreme ups and downs. In one of his manic episodes, he became possessed with the idea of starting an apple orchard. Not only did he think it would be profitable, he also thought it would be good for him to work the land in the manner of a farmer. Very soon after Jill left the family house, Jack paid to have the entire thing demolished. Thereafter he erected a small cottage on the lot, and commenced to bury innumerable apple seeds on the property.
All of this was completely unbeknownst to Jill, let alone something done with her authorization. Upon finding what Jack had done, she was understandably incensed. Her divorce attorney had explained to her that there was a high likelihood that the house and the lot which she had purchased with Jack would be considered their community property, and that she would be entitled to half its value. Now, with the house demolished, Jill is afraid that that value is significantly diminished.
Jill may be protected under Louisiana Civil Code article 2369.3. This article explains that a spouse has a duty to maintain community property “…in a manner consistent with the mode of use of that property immediately prior to termination of the community regime. He is answerable for any damage caused by his fault, default, or neglect.”
In this case, the clear “mode of use” of the property shared between them was as a family house and property. If Jack’s unilateral decision to demolish the house and start the apple orchard can be shown to have damaged the value of the property, he may owe Jill money in recompense for his actions.
This above is informational only, not legal advice. Will Beaumont. Beaumont Divorce. New Orleans.
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