from the Fifth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Richland, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 44, 696-C Honorable
Ann B. McIntyre, Judge
& DEMENT By: Albert E. Loomis, III Counsel for Appellant.
DOUGLAS BUSARI & ASSOCIATES, LLC By: S. Douglas Busari
Counsel for Appellee.
BROWN, WILLIAMS, and GARRETT, JJ.
Rockett appeals from trial court judgments which (1) awarded
his wife, Terry Rockett, interim spousal support, and (2)
held him in contempt for being $62, 231 in arrears on his
interim spousal support payments. We affirm both judgments.
parties married in 1976. Five children were born of the
marriage. After the youngest child reached the age of
majority, Jessie left his wife a handwritten letter on August
11, 2015. In it, he informed her that he was leaving her
because he no longer loved her and they had raised their
children. Jessie, who was an oilfield drilling consultant
making in excess of $400, 000 a year, then laid out in detail
certain financial matters in his letter. He said he was going
to remove his wife's name from their joint checking
account, so he could keep up the truck and car
payments. He would keep insurance on his truck and
their youngest daughter's car, as well as keeping
hospital insurance on Terry and the daughter. He wanted his
motorcycles and guns. He said Terry would get the family home
and her car, both of which were paid for, but that she would
have to pay her own insurance. He would keep "all the
IRA account" because he was giving his wife his monthly
retirement check from a former employer. He calculated Terry
would get a total of about $7, 600 per month, but the amount
might be adjusted if the oilfield shut down.
filed for divorce on August 31, 2015, alleging that Jessie
had committed adultery with a woman she named in her
petition. Terry requested both interim and permanent spousal
support. She also sought exclusive use of the family home in
Delhi. She submitted an affidavit listing monthly expenses of
$8, 861. Additionally, she asked for a temporary restraining
order ("TRO") to prevent Jessie from encumbering or
disposing of community property, which was granted.
answer, Jessie alleged that he and Terry separated on August
11, 2015, due to her chronic gambling habit, which had
"virtually pauperized" them and her failure to pay
family bills with money he provided. He had no objection to
her exclusive use of the family home, so long as reasonable
rental was charged for her occupation of his half. He
reconvened seeking injunctive relief to prevent Terry from
alienating or encumbering community assets. A TRO so ordering
hearing officer conference ("HOC") was held on
November 19, 2015. Among the undisputed facts were
Jessie's employment with RWDY, Inc.; his monthly gross
income of $26, 166; his retirement income of $1, 867 per
month from former employer Rowan Drilling Company; and his
necessary living expenses of $5, 744. Terry, who was living
in the former marital home, was not employed and had not
worked outside the home for many years. Although she listed
monthly expenses of more than $8, 000, this included $1, 500
for food, as well as $1, 250 for health insurance which she
did not currently have to pay. As a result, it was concluded
that her actual necessary expenses were no more than $6, 000
per month. Jessie claimed that he was unable to pay interim
spousal support due to issues with the Internal Revenue
Service ("IRS"), which he blamed on Terry's
preparation of their tax returns.
report recommended that Terry be awarded exclusive use of the
marital home, with the issue of rental payments being
deferred until trial; that each party receive exclusive use
of their respective vehicles and the community movables in
their possession; and that each be enjoined from alienating
or encumbering community property. On the issue of interim
spousal support, the hearing officer recommended that the
husband pay $6, 000 per month. Additionally, he was to
continue to provide her health insurance coverage until a
judgment of divorce was entered and to pay her $1, 250
thereafter to obtain the same. On November 20, 2015, the
trial court made the HOC recommendation its interim order.
sides objected to the HOC recommendations. Terry contended
that the husband's monthly income was $28, 033, and that
she should have been awarded $8, 861. Jessie asserted that he
feared a tax debt of at least $250, 000, which he blamed on
his wife and her alleged gambling addiction, and that he had
sought advice from a certified public accountant
("CPA") to avoid criminal prosecution for tax
evasion. He stated that he was "taking steps to turn
over all income and assets to the Federal Government to
ensure that he is not criminally prosecuted." He
maintained that the hearing officer failed to adequately
reduce several of the wife's claimed expenses, which were
grossly inflated. Jessie contended that, if all the expenses
were reduced to their proper amounts, the wife's monthly
expenses would be only $3, 970.
11, 2016, Terry filed a motion for contempt, alleging that
Jessie was in arrears in the amount of $51, 100 for interim
spousal support and $7, 500 for comparable health insurance
coverage. A hearing was set for May 20, 2016. On May 18,
2016, Jessie filed an exception of lack of service and/or
untimely service of the contempt motion, as well as a motion
and rule for reduction of spousal support.
20, 2016, a hearing was held on the interim spousal support
issues. Testimony was given by the parties; one of
their sons; the wife's sister and niece; and Lawrence W.
Pickett, the husband's CPA. The evidence revealed that
Jessie had removed Terry's access to most of the money
that had been in their joint account and that he had made
only small, sporadic payments to his wife since the
separation. The testimony of the wife and relatives
established the wife's poor health (diabetes,
hypertension, anxiety, and depression), which required daily
medication, and her impecunious circumstances. She also had
experienced serious issues with her knee that required
surgeries and caused her to be in a wheelchair for four
years. At the time of trial, she still used a cane and was
unable to stand without assistance. She required help to
clean the house and Jessie had paid Terry's sister to do
their housekeeping. Due to a lack of funds, Terry was unable
to pay for such things as her medications, groceries, lawn
maintenance, or the gas bill. After the gas was turned off,
she had no hot water for washing dishes or bathing and had to
go to her son's house to shower. Also, she no longer had
a bank account.
sides submitted affidavits of expenses. Terry's affidavit
showed expenses of $8, 861.00, while Jessie's were $5,
744.30. As to the amounts on her affidavit of expenses, some
of which were excessive, Terry stated that she listed the
sums she was accustomed to spending and did not understand
that she was supposed to figure out solely her own expenses.
She explained that she never had to budget during the last
years of the marriage because their income was so high. She
also testified that the family home in which she was residing
was in poor condition. She had applied for food stamps and
disability, but her requests were denied based on
Jessie's level of income. Jessie testified that he and
his girlfriend were living together in a house that cost $1,
300 per month in rent and that he had paid a year's rent
in advance. The girlfriend was not employed.
testified that in 2015 he made $410, 000, or about $30, 000
per month. However, he claimed that he was terminated on
January 25, 2016, due to a workforce reduction and that he
had been unsuccessful in securing any job in any field since
then. Jessie also testified that his wife was in
charge of doing their taxes and that he believed that she had
been taking them to Pickett. Pickett testified that Jessie
had consulted him about the couple's tax situation.
According to his estimates, they owed a total of between
$350, 000 and $400, 000 in tax liability for 2011 to 2015.
Pursuant to Pickett's advice, in late 2015 and early
2016, Jessie made large payments totaling $60, 000 toward the
2015 tax debt. Terry testified that she had always prepared
and signed their tax returns. She acknowledged that in 2010,
when Jessie asked her to take the taxes to Pickett, she lied
that she had done so, but she continued to do them herself,
utilizing a tax preparation software on her computer. When
she learned in 2014 that she had underpaid the 2011 taxes,
she arranged to make installment payments and was still in
the process of catching up the payments when her husband left
her. Terry introduced into evidence a document dated March 7,
2016, which she had recently received from the IRS indicating
the parties were entitled to a refund of more than $2, 100
from a prior tax year.
claimed his wife went to the boats and gambled a lot.
However, he admitted that they went to the casinos together.
Furthermore, he was confronted with documentation showing
sums of money he had won gambling. Terry and her sister
testified that they went to the casino together infrequently
while Jessie was away. Both spouses stated that they had not
been gambling since the separation.
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court requested that the
proceedings be transcribed to facilitate its review of ...