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Hatfield v. Hatfield

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 19, 2014

NATALIE DAWSON HATFIELD, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
GEORGE ERIC HATFIELD, Defendant-Appellant

Page 71

Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Webster, Louisiana. Trial Court No. 55450. Honorable John M. Robinson, Judge.

AFFIRMED.

ROBERT I. THOMPSON, III, Counsel for Appellant.

BOOTH, LOCKARD, POLITZ & LESAGE, L.L.C., By: Nyle A. Politz, Counsel for Appellee.

Before MOORE, PITMAN & GARRETT, JJ.

OPINION

Page 72

[49,493 La.App. 2 Cir. 1] PITMAN, J.

In this suit to modify child support filed by his former wife, Plaintiff Natalie Hatfield Holley, Defendant George Hatfield appeals the imputation to him of an annual income of $100,000 for child support calculation as a sanction for failure to provide the trial court with certain documentation. Defendant also appeals the imposition of other sanctions and the trial court's final determination of child support due. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

FACTS

Natalie and George Hatfield were married in May 1995 and divorced in August 1997. Two children were born of the marriage, and they are now 18 and 17 years old respectively. Substantial litigation between the parties concerning child support and custody between 1996 and 2001 was documented in the record. An order for child support was entered in August 1998 that went unmodified until January 2010.

At that time, Plaintiff requested an increase in child support with the Webster Parish Support Enforcement Office, and Defendant filed an answer and reconventional demand seeking a change of custody. Because of this request for change of custody, the matter was transferred to the district court, where the parties began the process of financial discovery. Defendant decided to dismiss his reconventional demand. The request to modify child support continued. Years of litigation ensued with motions to compel discovery, motions to dismiss, motions for protective orders and motions in limine being filed. Due to the complexity of Defendant's multiple business enterprises and the financial information to be provided, Susan Whitelaw, [49,493 La.App. 2 Cir. 2] CPA, was appointed as a special master to review financial documents and make recommendations concerning the child support owed by the parties. A mental health professional, Durrell Tuberville, was appointed by the trial court to make recommendations regarding custodial matters.

In April 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion in limine and for sanctions for Defendant's failure to comply with the special master's request for document production, which specifically listed the documents necessary for her review. The trial court issued, without prejudice, an interim order increasing Defendant's support obligation to $875 per month pending further order of the court.

In February 2013, Plaintiff filed a revised petition for rule nisi for contempt, sanctions and motion in limine. A hearing was held on April 9, 2013, at which time the trial court took testimony from the special master. Ms. Whitelaw testified that Plaintiff had provided her the documentation necessary to review Plaintiff's financial situation and that Plaintiff had made payments to her for the work she had already performed. The attorneys questioned the special master regarding exactly which requested documents Defendant had not provided. The special master also testified that Defendant had not yet paid her for the work she had performed.

A judgment was entered on the motion on April 25, 2013, ordering Defendant to produce numerous financial documents and which stated that, in default of the production of the requested documents by the assigned date, ...


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