OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL, SECOND CIRCUIT, PARISH
granted this writ application to resolve a split among the
appellate courts of our state regarding the proper
interpretation of La. Civ. Code art. 2331. Specifically, we
are tasked with determining whether parties must duly
acknowledge their signatures prior to the marriage in order
for the matrimonial agreement to have legal effect. We find
the acknowledgment of the signatures to be a form
requirement, and the failure to meet all form requirements
prior to the marriage renders the matrimonial agreement
invalid. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the court of
appeal and reinstate the district court judgment. We remand
for proceedings consistent with this holding.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Deon Dickerson Acurio Cage, (hereinafter "the
plaintiff"), and Dr. Michael Thomas Acurio, (hereinafter
"the defendant"), married on June 27, 1998 for the
first time. That marriage ended in divorce in 2000. On
January 29, 2002, the parties married for a second time.
Prior to this marriage, on January 25, 2002, the plaintiff
and the defendant executed a document captioned
"Prenuptial Agreement." The document was signed by
the parties before one witness and a notary. It is undisputed
that the agreement was not executed by authentic act. Also,
the agreement did not contain an acknowledgment of the
signature of either party.
2009, divorce proceedings began. A judgment of divorce was
signed and filed on October 6, 2010. Property issues were to
be decided at a November 2015 trial. However, in July of
2015, the plaintiff filed a Motion in Limine to Exclude
Evidence of Invalid Matrimonial Agreement, seeking to exclude
the 2002 document for failure to comply with the form
requirements of La. Civ. Code art. 2331.
district court granted the motion in limine, finding the
matrimonial agreement was not executed by authentic act or
act under private signature duly acknowledged prior to the
marriage. Specifically, the district court noted "the
first acknowledgment of [the signatures] was in the
deposition of [the plaintiff] on July 8, 2010."
Accordingly, it found the agreement was null and void
"based upon the lack of form prior to the entering of
the marriage." The defendant appealed.
Second Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district
court's judgment on the motion in limine, holding the
Prenuptial Agreement was valid and enforceable because
spouses do not have to acknowledge their signatures prior to
marriage. Acurio v. Acurio, 50, 709 (La.App. 2 Cir.
6/22/16), 197 So.3d 253. The plaintiff filed the instant writ
application. We granted the writ to determine whether the
acknowledgment of the parties' signatures must occur
prior to the marriage in order for the matrimonial agreement
to be valid. Acurio v. Acurio, 16-1395 (La.
of the Parties
Civ. Code art. 2331 provides:
A matrimonial agreement may be executed by the spouses before
or during marriage. It shall be made by authentic act or by
an act under private signature duly acknowledged by the
plaintiff argues the spouses' signatures must be duly
acknowledged prior to the marriage. In support of this
argument, she contends La. Civ. Code art. 2331 must be read
in conjunction with La. Civ. Code art. 2329, which provides,
in pertinent part:
Spouses may enter into a matrimonial agreement that modifies
or terminates a matrimonial regime during marriage only upon
a joint petition and a finding by the court that this serves
their best interests and that they understand the governing
principles and rules.
spouses fail to enter into a valid matrimonial agreement
before the marriage, La. Civ. Code art. 2329 requires them to
jointly petition the court and obtain court approval to enter
into a matrimonial agreement during marriage. According to
the plaintiff's view, if the acknowledgment does not
occur prior to the marriage, the agreement is not fully
perfected and is, therefore, invalid. Thus, court approval
would be required to enter into a matrimonial agreement
post-nuptially. Reading these two articles jointly, as argued
by the plaintiff, creates a temporal requirement for the
acknowledgment to occur prior to the marriage.
majority of the appellate courts in this state have agreed
with the plaintiff's position. See Ritz v. Ritz,
95-683 (La.App. 5 Cir. 12/13/95), 666 So.2d 1181 (wherein the
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal invalidated a matrimonial
agreement when the parties failed to duly acknowledge their
signatures prior to the marriage); Deshotels v.
Deshotels, 13-1406, p. 5 (La.App. 3 Cir. 11/5/14), 150
So.3d 541, 545 (wherein the Third Circuit Court of Appeal
found a matrimonial agreement invalid "because the
elements of form must have been perfected before the
marriage" and a later "admission in court that [a
spouse] signed the marriage agreement cannot act to
retroactively resurrect the defective marriage agreement);
Rush v. Rush, 12-1502 (La.App. 1 Cir. 3/25/13), 115
So.3d 508 (wherein the First Circuit Court of Appeal held
that the spouses had to get court approval for a matrimonial
agreement if the spouses had not acknowledged their
signatures prior to the marriage); Lauga v. Lauga,
537 So.2d 758 (La.App. 4 Cir. 1989)(wherein the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeal invalidated a matrimonial agreement
for the spouses' failure to acknowledge their signatures
prior to the marriage).
the defendant contends the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in
the instant case correctly ruled that acknowledgment has no
temporal requirement and can occur at any time. Because La.
Civ. Code art. 2331 does not expressly place a time element
on acknowledgment, the defendant relies on the general law of
obligations. Specifically, he cites to La. Civ. Code art.
1836, which states:
An act under private signature is regarded prima facie as the
true and genuine act of a party executing it when his
signature has been acknowledged, and the act shall be
admitted in evidence without further proof.
An act under private signature may be acknowledged by a party
to that act by recognizing the signature as his own before a
court, or before a notary public, or other officer authorized
to perform that function, in the presence of two witnesses.
An act under private signature may be acknowledged also in
any other manner authorized by law.
Nevertheless, an act under private signature, though
acknowledged, cannot substitute for an authentic act when the
law prescribes such an act.
defendant avers the validity of the private signature is a
question of proof of the signatures by way of acknowledgment,
which can be offered at any time. To support the notion that
the acknowledgment is merely a matter of evidentiary proof
and not an element of form, he sets forth La. Civ. Code art.
A party against whom an act under private signature is
asserted must acknowledge his signature or deny that it is
his. In case of denial, any means of proof may be used to
establish that the signature belongs to that party.
this backdrop of opposing viewpoints, we begin our analysis
with some basic tenets of civilian law. "Laws on the
same subject matter must be interpreted in reference to each
other." La. Civ. Code art. 13. "All laws pertaining
to the same subject matter must be interpreted in pari
materia . . . ." Pierce Foundations, Inc. v.
Jaroy Construction, Inc., 15-785, p. 7 (La. 5/3/16), 190
So.3d 298, 303. The legal regime of community property is
presumed. La. Civ. Code art. 2340. In light of this
presumption and the strong legislative policy favoring
community rights, we interpret statutory provisions which
waive those rights stricti juris. (See e.g.
Rush, 115 So.3d at 512; Poirier v. Poirier, 626
So.2d 868, 870 (La.App. 3 Cir. 1993), writ denied,
94-161 (La. 3/11/94), 634 So.2d 389.
the defendant's argument is primarily grounded in the
apparent absence of a temporal requirement for acknowledgment
in La. Civ. Code art. 2331. The defendant then navigates to
the general rules of obligations to reach the conclusion that
acknowledgment of a party's signature is simply an
evidentiary matter that can be proven at any time. However,
we find such a departure from the applicable rules on
matrimonial agreements to be erroneous. La. Civ. Code art.
1916 specifically instructs, "[n]ominate contracts are
subject to the special rules of the respective titles when
those rules modify, complement, or depart from the rules of
this title [conventional obligations or contracts]." For
the reasons that follow, we find the collective ...