474 U.S. 912 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

OETTINGER v. OETTINGER , 474 U.S. 912 (1985)

474 U.S. 912

Leona Gordon OETTINGER.
No. 84-2011

Supreme Court of the United States

October 21, 1985

The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.

Justice WHITE, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

Appellant Albert Oettinger and appellee Leona Gordon Oettinger were married in Louisiana in 1967. Both had been married before, and both had substantial property of their own at the time of the marriage. Unbeknownst to appellant, at the time of the marriage appellee recorded a declaration of paraphernality under the authority of Article 2386 of the Louisiana Civil Code. This declaration allowed a wife to reserve for herself any fruits from her paraphernal property (nondotal property she brought into the marriage); it also gave her the right to manage such property and the fruits from such property. See La.Civ.Code Ann., Art.

Page 474 U.S. 912 , 913

2386 (West 1971).* Under the Louisiana marital property laws in effect at that time, the husband would, absent such a declaration, have the right to manage the fruits of the wife's paraphernal property, and those fruits would thus normally fall into the community property. See La.Civ.Code Ann ., Arts. 2402, 2404 (West 1971).

Under Louisiana law at that time, no similar provision existed for the husband. For a husband to reserve the fruits of his separate property to himself, he had to prove that they were separate property; a simple declaration was not possible for him. See La.Civ.Code Ann., Art. 2405 ( West 1971). Thus, although a husband had the right to manage his separate property (because he had the right under law, with certain exceptions, to manage all separate and community property), the fruits from that property that accrued during the marriage would normally become community property.

During their marriage, appellant and appellee attempted to maintain their finances separately. In 1980, they were divorced. In 1982, appellee sued for a partition of former community property and for settlement of the former community. Appellant, mindful of this Court's recent gender-discrimination decisions, see e.g., Orr v. Orr, 440 U.S. 268 (1979), challenged inclusion in the community of the property that he had brought into the marriage and of the fruits from that property on the ground that the Louisiana Civil Code provision that allowed the wife but not the husband to reserve the fruits of such property to herself by a mere declaration of paraphernality was an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. That provision, Article 2386, had been repealed by the [474 U.S. 912 , 914]

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