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Steele v. Ashworth

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

November 12, 2014

QUINTON D. STEELE
v.
JASMINE S. ASHWORTH

APPEAL FROM THE THIRTY-SIXTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF BEAUREGARD, NO. 20080980 HONORABLE MARTHA ANN O'NEAL, DISTRICT JUDGE

Larry Edward Pichon Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT Quinton D. Steele

Jasmine S. Ashworth In Proper Person

Court composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, John D. Saunders, and Billy Howard Ezell, Judges.

JOHN D. SAUNDERS JUDGE

This is an appeal from a custody determination and judgment rendered by the trial court. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Quinton J. Steele (hereafter "Appellant") and Jasmine S. Ashworth (hereafter "Appellee) are the parents of a minor child, Conner Steele. On September 16, 2008, Appellant filed a Petition to Establish Paternity and Custody. On March 16, 2009, the trial court issued an oral ruling, recognizing Appellant as the biological father of the minor child. At the same time, an Interim Order was issued, awarding "joint care, custody, and control" of the minor child to the parties. On April 13, 2009, a hearing was held on Appellant's Rule to Set Permanent Custody. The testimony of Appellant, Appellee, and Laura Landry, Appellant's wife, was heard. An oral ruling with reasons was issued, granting joint custody to the parties, with Appellee being designated domiciliary parent with Appellant having visitation according to the court's Standard Custody Implementation Plan. Judgment was signed on September 24, 2013, awarding "permanent joint care, custody, and control of the minor child." Appellee was designated as the domiciliary parent. An Implementation Plan was issued.

On September 23, 2013, Appellee, pro se, filed a Rule for Contempt, alleging that Appellant took the minor child without her permission. On September 24, 2013, the trial court ordered the minor child be returned to Appellee and set the matter for review. Appellant filed a response to the rule, alleging the minor child had been in his care, with Appellee's permission, since the summer of 2012. He further alleged that he and Appellee had agreed the child would remain in his custody, with Appellee exercising visitation in her home. On October 11, 2013, Appellant filed a Petition for Change of Custody and Stay of Return Order, again alleging that, with Appellee's permission, he had physical custody of the child since the summer of 2012. He requested sole custody with visitation being granted to Appellee and a stay of the order to return the child until a hearing could be had on the request to change custody. The request for stay was denied, and the matter was set for hearing.

Hearing was held on December 19, 2013, at which the trial court heard the testimony of the parties. The matter was taken under advisement, and judgment was rendered on January 2, 2014, in which the trial court denied the Petition for Change of Custody, finding that Appellant failed to meet the burden of proof for a change of custody following the rendition of a considered decree. It is from this judgment that this appeal arises.

DISCUSSION

In his appeal, Appellant first asserts the trial court erred in not considering a letter written to the court by the minor child. Appellant also asserts the trial court erred in finding that the standard announced in Bergeron v. Bergeron, 492 So.2d 1193 (La.1986), applied to Appellant's request to change custody.

Assignment of Error Number One:

Appellant asserts that the trial court did not properly consider a letter written by the minor child, in which the child complained he was "hit" by Appellee. In support of his argument, he contends, "If the court properly considered the letter then the court could have concluded ...


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