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Hammond v. Hammond

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

April 5, 2017

LOVIE MULLEN HAMMOND Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
JOHN FLOYD HAMMOND Defendant-Appellee

         Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Lower Court No. 2015-2423 Honorable Alvin R. Sharp, Judge

          LAW OFFICES OF MASON L. OSWALT Counsel for Appellant By: Mason L. Oswalt

          JOHN FLOYD HAMMOND In Proper Person

          Before MOORE, LOLLEY, and COX, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Lovie "Beth" Hammond appeals a judgment that awarded her and her ex-husband, John Hammond, joint custody of the couple's two minor sons but omitted any mention of her claims for child support, the dependent tax credit and spousal support. Finding an abuse of discretion, we amend the judgment and, as amended, render.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Beth and John got married in March 2005, in Arkansas, and eventually moved to Ouachita Parish, where most of her family (and none of his) was from. They had two boys together, born in 2002 and 2009. John left the matrimonial domicile in June 2014 and moved to Oklahoma.

         Beth filed a petition for Art. 102 divorce in August 2015. She requested joint custody of the boys with herself as primary domiciliary parent, child support, the dependent tax credit and spousal support. She attached a detailed plan of implementation. She alleged that John had picked up the boys for a six-week vacation in June 2014 but had never brought them back to West Monroe.

         John answered and reconvened in November 2015, seeking an Art. 103 divorce. He demanded primary custody of the boys but did not submit a plan of implementation.

         Pursuant to Fourth Judicial District rules, the matter was referred to a Hearing Officer Conference ("HOC") on November 18, 2015, before Hearing Officer Chuck Traylor. Hearing Officer Traylor made extensive findings of fact, recommending joint custody with Beth as the domiciliary parent, subject to standard alternating-weekend visitation, alternating holidays, and split three-week periods during the summer. He also made detailed findings of fact regarding the parties' financial situations, recommending that John pay child support of $628.00 per month, in two equal installments, that Beth receive the dependent tax credit, that John pay interim periodic spousal support of $300.00 per month, and that child and spousal support debts be made retroactive to the date of judicial demand.[1]

         John objected to the HOC recommendation, particularly the designation of Beth as domiciliary parent, the unworkable alternating-weekend visits (Elk City, Oklahoma, is an almost nine-hour drive to West Monroe, each way), the award of spousal support, retroactivity of the child support, and various particulars of the visitation plan.

         On December 17, 2015, Judge Robert Johnson signed a "temporary order" making the HOC report the order of the court "pending the final disposition of issues by the court." At some point, the case was reassigned to Judge Alvin Sharp.

         The parties appeared for trial on May 25, 2016. In a very brief, morning session, Judge Sharp granted them a divorce and ...


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