Appealed from the Third Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Lincoln, Louisiana Trial Court No. 53, 946
Honorable Cynthia T. Woodard, Judge
L. KNEIPP Counsel for Appellant.
HUDSON, POTTS & BERNSTEIN, LLP By: Robert M. Baldwin L.
Casey Auttonberry Counsel for Appellee.
WILLIAMS, PITMAN, and COX, JJ.
the division of property after divorce between Plaintiff
Melodye Patterson, nee Tanner, and Defendant Gary Edward
Patterson, Plaintiff appeals the judgment of the trial court
which declared their matrimonial agreement ("the
Agreement") valid and which classified the shares of a
company owned by Plaintiff prior to the marriage as community
property. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment
of the trial court.
and Defendant were involved in a relationship in 1988 while
Defendant was still married to his first wife. In 1988,
Plaintiff formed a company called Financial Resources
Management of Louisiana, Inc. ("FRM"), and is its
sole shareholder. Between 1988 and 1990, Plaintiff purchased
three tracts of immovable property through FRM known as the
Heard tract, the DeSoto tract and the Caney Lake property.
The properties were found and purchased with the assistance
of Defendant, although he was not monetarily obligated for
the purchases of the land owned by FRM.
eventually divorced his first wife, and a property settlement
was reached. Plaintiff and Defendant planned to marry in
August 1993 and agreed to enter into a matrimonial agreement
that would delineate which of their properties would be
deemed separate and which properties would be deemed
community. They met with Defendant's attorney and friend,
Paul Spillers, who informed Plaintiff that he was there
representing and advising his client, Defendant, and that he
could not be her attorney in this matter. Plaintiff allegedly
told Spillers that she understood and that she had an
attorney, but was unsure about using him for this matter.
Agreement was prepared by Spillers. By letter dated July 21,
1993, a copy was mailed to his client, Defendant, along with
two attached exhibits, A and B, which allegedly described all
the separate property owned by each party. FRM was not listed
on Plaintiff's Exhibit B. In fact, it listed only one
tract of land, called the Sibley Tract, which she had
inherited from her grandmother. Defendant's Exhibit A is
several pages long and contained legal descriptions of 13
pieces of immovable property. Plaintiff did not receive a
copy of the Agreement from Spillers since she was not his
client. Defendant claims that she must have seen a copy at
their office because she handled all the mail delivered
there. Defendant made corrections to the legal descriptions
and returned his exhibit to Spillers, who thereafter sent
Defendant a final draft of the Agreement by letter dated July
claims that she saw and read the Agreement for the first time
on August 5, 1993, two days before their wedding, when she
and Defendant were driving to the courthouse in Ruston,
Louisiana, to execute it in front of a notary public and two
for the attached exhibits, the Agreement is three pages long.
The first page names the parties and states that it is to
take effect upon their marriage. The second and third pages
contain signatures and the following clauses, which led to
this extensive lawsuit:
Appearers shall be separate in property with respect to the
property described on the attached Exhibits "A" and
"B". The attached Exhibit "A" describes
the separate property of GARY EDWARD PATTERSON. The attached
Exhibit "B" describes the separate property of
MELODYE TANNER BARNES. Appearers declare and acknowledge the
property listed and described on the attached exhibits shall
henceforth be the separate property of each. Each Appearer
hereby expressly reserves to himself/herself, individually,
the entireadministration and control of his/her respective
Any income recognized by either Appearer with respect to
their separate property shall constitute community income.
For these purposes income shall be recognized at that point
in time when income is recognized for federal income tax
Appearers hereby adopt the legal regime of community property
with respect to all other assets of whatever nature they may
own, it being their specific intent that all assets other
than the assets described on the attached exhibits shall be
and are hereby converted to community property.
Any debts, obligations, and liabilities of your Appearers
that exist as of the date of marriage shall retain their
character as separate obligations. Any obligations, debts, or
liabilities incurred after marriage shall constitute
to the Agreement, a community of acquets and gains was
established during the existence of the marriage. In October
2009, Plaintiff filed a suit for divorce, alleged adultery
and requested that their community be terminated. The
judgment of divorce was signed on May 7, 2010.
April 2010, prior to rendition of the divorce judgment,
Plaintiff filed a separate suit entitled, "Petition to
Declare the Matrimonial Agreement Invalid in Part and/or to
Declare the Matrimonial Agreement in Part a Donation Subject
to Revocation for Ingratitude." This suit was given a
different docket number from her suit for divorce. In July
2012, she amended her petition in the action to declare the
Agreement invalid or a donation. Eventually, the divorce
matter, in which she sought the division of the community
property, and the matrimonial agreement matter were
consolidated by order of the trial court.
February and April 2016, a trial was held which concerned the
division of property between Plaintiff and Defendant. The
testimony given at the trial on the facts leading up to the