Liz Meneray to Host Webinar on Community Property for Arts Council of New Orleans

Please join me via live webchat for the webinar, “Community Property, Intellectual Property,” on Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 12:00 noon.  I am presenting the webinar for the Arts Council of New Orleans.  I will be presenting an overview of Louisiana community property law, giving information concerning intellectual property and how it fits within the community property classification at the time of divorce or death, and providing tips for effective preparation for either of these unfortunate events.  You can sign up for the webinar through the Arts Council’s website at www.artscouncilofneworleans.org.

The ABC’s of Child Custody

Custody disputes are complicated matters.  They involve legal issues, certainly, but also intense emotional ties, uncertainty and stress.   Trying to calm the waters of a bitter custody battle is no small task, but there are some constants in the process that can be boiled down to these ABC’s:

A:  ALLOWING BOTH PARENTS TO PARTICIPATE – Joint custody is the preferred state of affairs in Louisiana law.  Our society likes to see parents cooperate and participate in the raising of their children.  Unfortunately, the reason custody cases exist is when parents disagree about how to parent their children, and even the law can’t make them see eye to eye.  However, it’s important to understand that a disagreement between the parents is not a good reason for one of them to withhold a child from the other.  Both parents have equal rights to their children, and the law prefers to see both of them parent the child.  That’s not to say there aren’t ways for a parent to lose the right to be a parent.  But,  to the extent possible our laws favor allowing both parents to participate in the raising of their children.  Our courts will work to make that happen to benefit the child.  That brings us to…

B:  BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD – Our Civil Code challenges courts in family law matters to be a watchdog for the best interests of our children.  It is the court’s role to make certain that decisions made are truly best for the children involved.  To do that, courts use “The Best Interest of the Child Factors” in the Civil Code.  Not all of these factors apply in every case, and there may be factors not on the list that also apply, but generally this is what the court wants to know about a child’s situation:

  • Love, affection and emotional ties between the child and the parties
  • Spiritual and emotional guidance provided to the child by the parties
  • Food, clothing, medical care and other material needs available to the child
  • Continuity of a stable, adequate environment
  • Permanence of the family unit
  • Moral fitness of the parties
  • Mental and physical health of the parties
  • Home, school and community history of the child
  • The child’s preference, if he’s old enough to have one
  • Each party’s willingness to help and encourage the child to have a close and continuing relationship with the other party
  • Distance of the parties’ residences
  • The care and rearing previously exercised by each party

C:  CONSENT JUDGMENT OR COURT-ORDERED CUSTODY –  When parents are able to agree, it is not necessary that a judge decide where a child lives or how often he visits with a parent.  The parties can create their own guidelines for custody and visitation in the form of a Consent Judgment.  The Consent Judgment basically sets out the law as it relates to the parties – the parents get to make the rules they believe are fair for their situation.  If things change at a later date, the parties may still be able to go to court and ask the judge to make a decision.

If the parties are unable to agree and a Consent Judgment is not the best solution for them, the parties can go before a judge, or a hearing officer in some parishes, and the court can decide using the Best Interest of the Child Factors outlined above, along with any other evidence the parties are able to present.  If things change at a later date, however, it is much harder to get a court-ordered custody arrangement changed than if the parties had a judgment entered into by consent of the parties.

D:  DECIDE TO CONTACT LIZ – I’ll throw in one more step – give me a call at (504) 330-5522 if you have a custody question.  I will be happy to sit down with you and help you make a plan that fits  your situation.  It is always my hope that parents can find some middle ground for the benefit of their children, but when necessary the courts are here to make certain that the rights of parents, and their responsibilities toward their children, are maintained and respected.

Independence Day

I filed a Petition for Divorce for one of my clients on January 4 of this year, and almost immediately she began to anticipate her big “independence day.”  “Will I be divorced by the fourth of July?” she wanted to know.  “Almost,” was my partial reply.

In Louisiana, a couple married without minor children may be divorced after living separate and apart for 180 days after service of the Petition for Divorce.  In this client’s case, her spouse was served with her petition on January 13, so we will be finalizing her divorce a few days later than July 4, but to her it will be “independence day” in her mind.

But what does independence entail?  It’s more complicated sometimes than just being “freed” of the person you’re married to.  As much as you may just want it “over and done with,” the divorce decree itself is only the beginning of a divorce.  What about the property you acquired together; what about the bills, the bank accounts, the retirement savings invested over the years of the marriage?  All of that has to be sorted out, and while you’re waiting for that final judgment of divorce, there are a lot of details that require your attention.  Unfortunately, once you begin the divorce process, your emotional state will make it difficult for you to give the hard and fast details the attention they deserve. 

That’s why when you contemplate divorce, it’s important to plan ahead.  Many of my clients learn all too quickly how difficult it is to live on one income instead of two.  Having some money set aside in advance, maybe taking out a credit card or two, can help you to have the funds you need to get through that tough transition period once you and your spouse decide to part ways.

You should consult with an attorney before making the decision to leave the family home or asking your spouse to leave.  There are a lot of details involved in divorce that you probably have not considered, and you want to think carefully about those details before the chaos of the final breakup.  You need someone who can look at your situation and separate the facts from your complicated emotions and help you make decisions that are in your best interest.  That’s what we’re trained to do – to be objective, to advocate for your position, and to look out for you while you’re going through this rocky emotional terrain.

At Meneray Family Law, we will sit down and frankly, but confidentially, talk out your case – what’s important to you, what you’re worried about, what questions you have – and we’ll be able to make a plan to move forward. No decisions need to be made during that hour or so we spend together talking.  It’s a time for us to learn about each other, what you need and what we can do to assist you.  You can begin to contemplate that independence you desire, and how best to achieve it.

If you’re thinking about divorce and want to begin making a plan, call us at (504) 330-5522 for a confidential consultation.

What is Family Law?

Our Louisiana Civil Code was written to be a sort of blueprint for daily life, with instructions on all sorts of topics.  One series of topics is contained in the book entitled, “Persons,” and speaks to the relationships of people in our society.  Husbands and wives, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, all interact within the confines of the Code.

Our family practice, then, is really a “Persons” practice, because we operate within the four corners of the Book of Persons.  We help our clients to understand the laws laid out in the Code and apply them to their legal problems. Of course, a lot of concerns fall under the umbrella of “people and relationships,” and this makes for a varied and interesting practice.  Here are some common concerns our clients ask us to address:

  • Pre-marital agreements for men and women wanting to make arrangements for separation of property;
  • Divorce either before or after a period of living separate and apart;
  • Property settlement (called partition) during or after a divorce, including Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO’s) for distribution of pensions and other retirement plans; 
  • Child custody by a parent;
  • Tutorship of a child by a grandparent or other relative;
  • Emancipation of an older child;
  • Child support obligations and arrearages;
  • Adoption of a child within the family (intra-family adoption);
  • Adoption of a child outside the family (private or agency adoption);
  • Wills and Powers of Attorney for planning end of life issues;
  • Successions for families dealing with the property of a loved one lost.

Louisiana’s legal history is rich and deeply rooted in the traditions of family.  Meneray Family Law is dedicated to serving the needs of all “persons” and their families, and we invite you to contact us at (504) 330-5522 today.

Meet Elizabeth S. Meneray

Hello!  Thank you for taking the time to visit our site.  I know that you want to make careful choices when selecting legal representation, so allow me to introduce myself and invite you to contact me at (504) 330-5522 for a consultation.

I am Elizabeth Stevenson Meneray, born in New Orleans Louisiana at Baptist Hospital.  I grew up on the Westbank and attended John Ehret High School, where I first encountered the law as a member of its premier Mock Trial Competition Team.  Although I had been an avid student journalist in high school and was expected to write for a career, I took the fire for the law that was kindled that spring semester and carried it with me to the University of New Orleans, where I majored in Political Science on a pre-law track.

At UNO, I obtained my Bachelor’s degree along with a Certificate of Paralegal Studies, thinking that I would test the waters of the legal field before diving into the deep end that was law school.  Little did I know I would practice as a paralegal for 15 years before finally braving those waters, when Hurricane Katrina finally kicked me out of the boat!

I entered Loyola University New Orleans School of Law with the perspective of someone who had already worked very hard and accomplished a great deal, but who believed she could contribute so much more but for the lack of this degree.  In the years leading up to law school, I had begun to volunteer more vigorously, to take greater part in my community, and to work more closely with those who gave part of themselves to make New Orleans a better place.  The education I received at Loyola was grounded in service of others, and the pursuit of education as a means to that service. 

It was at Loyola that I found my passion for the “Persons practice” that was to become Meneray Family Law.  As a student in the Loyola Family Law Clinic, I worked closely with families facing divorce, children caught in custody battles, elderly people bound by the red tape of the Road Home program.  I found there were solutions to their problems, and as an attorney I was able to make those solutions happen for them.  It was an incredible feeling to know that I could help, that I had found the tools to make things go right for people whose lives didn’t often work out so well.  It was with pleasure in my third year that I accepted an award from the Association of Women Attorneys as the outstanding student family law practitioner.

Today, I have begun to work for you.  I started Meneray Family Law in an effort to serve people with needs in the areas of divorce, custody, tutorship, emancipation, child support, adoption, wills and successions.  I would like to sit down and talk with you about your concerns, about what’s important to you.  Feel free to call for a consultation today at (504) 330-5522.