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Distefano v. Distefano

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

January 22, 2015

RYAN DISTEFANO
v.
CHRISTINA NICOLE DISTEFANO

Appealed from the 21st Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of Livingston, State of Louisiana. Trial Court Number 130192. Honorable Jeffery T. Oglesbee, Judge.

C. Glenn Westmoreland, Livingston, LA, Attorney for Appellant Plaintiff -- Ryan Distefano.

Sherman Q. Mack, Leslie Bankston Kidder, Albany, LA, Attorneys for Appellee Defendant -- Christina Nicole Distefano

BEFORE: McDONALD, CRAIN, AND HOLDRIDGE,[1] JJ.

OPINION

Page 438

[2014 1318 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] HOLDRIDGE, J.

In this child custody dispute, the father, Ryan Distefano, appeals a judgment

Page 439

in favor of the mother, Christina Nicole Distefano, which modified the parties' joint custodial arrangement by designating the parties as co-domiciliary parents, with each parent having physical custody of the children on an alternating weekly basis. For reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The parties in this matter, Ryan Distefano and Christina Distefano, were married on November 26, 2002, and they had two children during their marriage: A.B.D., born April 26, 2005, and L.M.D., born November 28, 2007. On September 17, 2010, Ryan Distefano filed a petition for divorce, seeking among other things, that the parties be awarded joint custody of their minor children, that he be designated as the children's domiciliary parent, and that the parties be awarded equal physical custody. On December 28, 2010, Christina Distefano filed an answer and reconventional demand, likewise seeking that the parties be awarded joint custody, that she be designated as the children's domiciliary parent, and that Ryan Distefano be awarded periods of physical custody in accordance with his work schedule. A judgment of divorce was rendered and signed on January 18, 2012.

During the pendency of the divorce proceedings and thereafter, the parties shared equal physical custody of the children pursuant to a verbal agreement. On August 1 and 2, 2012, a trial was held on the issue of custody and by judgment signed on September 3, 2013, the trial court awarded the parties joint custody of the children, designated Ryan Distefano as the children's domiciliary parent, and awarded Christina Distefano specific physical custodial periods consisting of every other weekend from Friday afternoon until Monday morning and every Wednesday [2014 1318 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] evening, with slight modifications of the custodial periods during the summer and for holidays and birthdays (" the September 3, 2013 custody decree" ).[2]

On March 26, 2014, Christina Distefano filed a motion to modify the parties' custodial arrangement. She alleged that following the rendition of the September 3, 2013 custody decree, the children had " expressed grief over not being able to spend more time with their mother," since she had been the primary care giver prior to that decree, and Ryan Distefano had been " wholly uncooperative in fostering the relationship between the minor children and their mother." Christina Distefano also alleged that, " [i]n an effort to be closer to the minor children and out of fear due to the continued instability" the defendant had exhibited, she relocated to live in the same residential subdivision as Ryan Distefano. She further alleged that since the rendition of the September 3, 2013 custody decree, the custody arrangement had become " so deleterious to the minor children with the actions of [Ryan Distefano] and

Page 440

the isolation from [Christina Distefano]" so as to warrant a modification of the custody arrangement by designating Christina Distefano as the domiciliary parent and granting her equal physical custody, or alternatively, increasing her physical custodial time. Christina Distefano claimed that such a modification would " immensely benefit the mental and emotional well being of the minor children" and would significantly outweigh " any minimal damage that could occur as a result of said modification."

After a trial on April 4, 2014, the trial court rendered judgment maintaining the award of joint custody; however, the trial court modified the September 3, 2013 [2014 1318 La.App. 1 Cir. 4] custody decree by designating the parties as co-domiciliary parents and ordering the parties to share physical custody of the children on an alternating weekly (or equal basis), with slight modifications for holidays and special days. A judgment in accordance with the trial court's ruling was signed on April 29, 2014, and it is from this judgment that Ryan Distefano now appeals.

On appeal, Ryan Distefano essentially claims that the trial court erred in modifying the previous considered custody decree because Christina Distefano ...


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