from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of
Ouachita, Louisiana Lower Court Case No. 112, 683 Honorable
Alvin R. Sharp, Judge
J. THOMAS Counsel for Appellant.
L. OSWALT Counsel for Appellee.
DREW, STONE, and COX, JJ.
appeal arises from a judgment signed on August 19, 2016, from
the Fourth Judicial District Court, Ouachita Parish, the
Honorable Alvin R. Sharp presiding. Hope Barker Singleton,
now Hope Barker Moore ("Mrs. Moore"), appeals from
the judgment which denied her request to relocate with her
son from Ouachita Parish to Montgomery, Texas,  arguing that the
court committed legal error in weighing the factors required
by La. R.S. 9:355.14 and abused its discretion in finding
that the move was not in the minor child's best interest.
For the following reasons, we find that the trial court did
not commit legal error in weighing the factors required by
La. R.S. 9:355.14. We affirm the ruling of the trial court.
Moore married Johnny Singleton ("Mr. Singleton") on
January 19, 2002, and one child, R.S., was born of the
marriage on August 8, 2006. Mrs. Moore filed for divorce in
2009, but the parties reconciled following roughly six months
of separation. On August 2, 2011, they separated again. The
final divorce was granted on November 30, 2012.
October 25, 2012, the parties entered into a consent judgment
that awarded joint custody and named Mrs. Moore as the
primary domiciliary parent. The judgment allowed Mr.
Singleton visitation every other weekend and every Wednesday
night. It also set child support at $900.00 per month and
required written notification of either parent's plan to
relocate at least 60 days before moving, along with
compliance with applicable law.
letter sent by certified mail and dated March 27, 2015, Mrs.
Moore attempted to notify Mr. Singleton that she intended to
relocate with R.S. to Montgomery, Texas, so that she could
live with her new husband. The letter was received by Mr.
Singleton on March 31, 2015. Mrs. Moore stated that she also
personally informed Mr. Singleton of the proposed relocation.
She sent a second letter expressing the same intent by
certified mail on April 28, 2015, and it was received on May
Moore filed a petition for relocation on May 19, 2015, asking
the court's permission to relocate with the child. She
requested an expedited hearing under La. R.S. 9:355.10,
seeking permission to temporarily relocate. Her request was
denied. The parties were ordered to attend a hearing officer
conference on July 21, 2015.
hearing officer filed a conference report on July 23, 2015,
recommending that the request to relocate be denied. On
February 20, 2016, Mr. Singleton filed a motion to reduce
child support because he had been laid off his job and
unemployed since September of 2015.
on the relocation of the child was held over the course of 8
days in May, June, and July of 2016. On July 20, 2016, the
trial court interviewed the minor child. After taking in all
the testimony, the trial court issued written reasons for its
ruling on August 8, 2016, and filed a judgment in accordance
with its written reasons on August 19, 2016.
trial on this matter began with an agreement that La. R.S.
9:355.14 was controlling. Testimony started with Kayla May, a
career law clerk for District Judge Robert James of the
Western District of Louisiana. May testified that she knew
both Mrs. Moore and Mr. Singleton because she attended the
same church as they did while they were married.
recalled going to a basketball game on approximately March 1,
2016, at the West Monroe Recreation Center to watch her son
play. She arrived early while the prior game was still in
progress and saw R.S. was one of the children playing. She
recalled that when she sat down in the bleachers, she saw Mr.
Singleton in the opposite bleachers "standing up and
screaming down the court something about a foul." She
stated that at first, she could not decide who he was
screaming at, but then R.S. committed a foul, and Mr.
Singleton began screaming at him. May observed that R.S.
appeared teary-eyed and looked upset about the screaming.
R.S. was taken out of the game. May observed Mr. Singleton go
over to him and get "down in his face." She stated
that "it appeared to [her] that he was yelling and he
got him by the back of the neck and shook him." This
incident caused an older man, believed to be Mrs. Moore's
father, to come down from the stands along with an employee
of the recreation center to talk to Mr. Singleton. May then
observed Mr. Singleton walk away and exit the building. May
stated that Mr. Singleton "seemed unreasonably upset,
" "his reaction seemed odd, " and "he
appeared to [her] as if he might have been under the
influence of something."
cross-examination, May admitted that she saw Mr. Singleton at
one of his son's games in February and nothing
inappropriate happened there. She also explained that all the
bleachers were on one side of the gym so her view of the
incident was lateral. May conceded she had no evidence that
Mr. Singleton was intoxicated or on drugs.
Cooper, an attorney at CenturyLink, was the next witness
called. She testified that she had known both Mrs. Moore and
Mr. Singleton for approximately five years through their sons
playing baseball together. She stated that Mrs. Moore had
always been attentive and is always with R.S.
observed that Mr. Singleton had been around more within the
past year, attending all of the baseball games for the most
recent season, but sporadically in the baseball seasons prior
to trial. She recalled one particular game in Shreveport
where she saw Mr. Singleton yelling and standing over David
Cody Moore ("Mr. Moore"). Cooper stated that she did
not see the beginning of the argument or know what it was
about, but Mr. Singleton would not stop yelling at Mr. Moore.
cross-examination, Cooper stated that Mr. Singleton had
attended almost all of the baseball team's practices with
R.S. over the past year. She stated that they seemed to have
a loving relationship.
Singleton was called to the stand next for cross-examination.
In his discovery responses, Mr. Singleton had denied that his
previous employer was based out of Houston, Texas. However,
in his deposition testimony, Mr. Singleton stated that his
previous employer was Synergy, and they were based out of
Houston, Texas. At trial, Mr. Singleton testified that he was
employed with them until August 12, 2015.
responses to interrogatories, Mr. Singleton denied abusing
prescription drugs, but he testified at trial that he had
taken hydrocodone, temazepam, and Xanax on two occasions. He
also testified that on one occasion he took Vyvanse (an ADHD
medication which is an amphetamine) without a prescription.
He stated he had not taken any illegal drugs since 2009, and
the last time he took prescription drugs was September 14,
2014, right after he got a DWI. Based on pharmacy records, Mr.
Singleton conceded it was possible he had prescriptions
filled for 200 hydrocodone pills in September 2014 and
stated, "I got way too many, I know that." He
testified that the medication was for back pain, but that he
quit taking the medication "cold turkey" in
September 2014, and his back had improved since that
his DWI, Mr. Singleton stated that on August 10, 2014, he had
R.S. over with one of his friends. Mr. Singleton passed out
on the couch and stated it took a while for him to be woken
up when Mrs. Moore stopped by to take the children to a
birthday party. After Mrs. Moore left, Mr. Singleton went to
see a girl in Ruston. He was pulled over around 6:00 p.m.
after a Ruston police officer noticed he was swerving. State
police responded, and Mr. Singleton testified that he blew
into a Breathalyzer which returned a 0 BAC. He also did a
urine test which indicated hydrocodone, Restoril, Vyvanse,
and Xanax. The toxicology report was introduced at trial and
indicated positive results for amphetamine, methamphetamine,
hydrocodone, mizopam, temazepam, oxycodone, and oxymorphone.
Singleton testified that he and Mrs. Moore had both done
cocaine and ecstasy. He admitted that in 2009 he was arrested
for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, but stated the case was
later thrown out by the district attorney.
Singleton admitted he had taken Lortab and Restoril for 5
years. He testified that he first began using illegal drugs
around the time he met Mrs. Moore.
Singleton denied leaving his job at Progressive Global in
2014 after being requested to take a drug screen. His
deposition testimony, however, reflected that he was
terminated for failure to supply a drug test. Progressive
requested the test because Mr. Singleton appeared impaired at
Singleton admitted that when he was 18 years old, he was
caught stealing stereo speakers out of a friend's car and
was charged with a felony count of theft. In 1988, he pleaded
guilty to unauthorized use of a movable. In 2004, Mr.
Singleton was arrested in Lincoln Parish for drunk and
disorderly conduct. In 2009, he was arrested for the
above-mentioned conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Singleton also admitted he was arrested in 2014 for insurance
fraud when he filed a false police report claiming that his
Camaro was stolen from his home. He stated that he "had
to" file the police report because his car was missing
when he went to get it after the DWI. Mr. Singleton stated
that almost a month later, he filed a report that his vehicle
was stolen. OnStar was then able to find the vehicle which
"was taken by a gas vendor that was trying - trying to
deliver fuel." Mr. Singleton eventually pleaded guilty
to criminal mischief in April of 2016, but stated that the
only lie he told was that the car was stolen from his yard
instead of from a store.
his son from a previous marriage, Dallas, Mr. Singleton
stated Dallas smokes marijuana, and the two do not see each
other often. Dallas is 19 years old. Mr. Singleton stated
that he has left R.S. in Dallas's care once or twice, but
that Dallas was not using marijuana while watching R.S.
Singleton acknowledged that Mrs. Moore was his second wife,
and that he gotten married a third time, on December 12,
2012, to Francine Lambert ("Francine") and moved to
El Reno, Oklahoma. He was later divorced from Francine and
moved back to Monroe in July 2013. While living in Oklahoma,
Mr. Singleton testified that he would drive down to Monroe to
see R.S. whenever he could. Upon moving back, Mr. Singleton
moved in with a friend, Tina Gross, for a few months. He
testified that he now lives in a rental home and is engaged
to Cristen Thompson.
his current employment, Mr. Singleton stated that he is
currently "in layoff status, " but stated he has
sent out about 2, 000 resumes since August 2015 to look for
Hope Crawford ("Crawford"), Mr. Singleton's
first wife, was called to the stand. Crawford testified that
Mr. Singleton played a limited role in their son's life,
rarely visiting, and only at Mrs. Moore's behest when she
was married to Mr. Singleton. She recalled an incident three
or four years ago when she would not let Dallas and R.S. get
in Mr. Singleton's truck with him because he appeared to
be intoxicated. She also stated that Mr. Singleton showed up
at one of Dallas's junior high basketball games and
caused a scene. Although she denied that he ever became
physically violent with Dallas, she stated that Mr. Singleton
lost his temper with Dallas all the time. Crawford also
testified that Dallas babysat R.S. on multiple occasions.
cross-examination, Crawford testified that Dallas and R.S.
have a brotherly relationship and have been involved in each
examination by the court, Crawford stated that relocating
R.S. to Texas would probably not have much of an impact on
Dallas and R.S.'s relationship. She elaborated that she
could not imagine R.S. not living with Mrs. Moore because of
how limited Mr. Singleton's relationship with R.S. and
Dallas was. Her conception was that Mrs. Moore wanted to
relocate R.S. to be part of a new, stable family, and Mr.
Singleton did not want him to relocate because it would be
too difficult or inconvenient for him to interact with R.S.
in Texas. She stated that she thought it would be feasible
for Mr. Singleton to move to Texas to be closer to R.S. She
viewed Mrs. Moore's family as supportive, but did not
think Mr. Singleton had a similar supportive network.
redirect, Crawford testified to an incident that occurred in
2002 or 2003 where Mr. Singleton threw a baseball helmet at
her when she tried to calm him down at a baseball game
because he was angry that Dallas was not playing well. She
also recalled an incident that occurred approximately five
years earlier where Mr. Singleton pushed her to the ground
when she tried to prevent him from taking Dallas because he
Cody Moore, Mrs. Moore's new husband, was next to be
called to the stand. He testified that he married Mrs. Moore
on March 8, 2014, and moved into their home in Montgomery,
Texas, around June of 2015. While dating Mrs. Moore and
before moving into the home, he stated that he lived
"full time" in an apartment in Houston and would
come home on the weekends. He currently works as an engineer
for Hunt, Guillot, and Associates ("HGA") in the
to the move, Mr. Moore stated he was "trying to quit
being project based and staying gone all the time so [he]
could be with [his] family." He stated he was asked to
move in April 2015. His new job has placed him at a dedicated
office where he can go home every night and has also
increased his hourly billing rate. Mr. Moore testified that
he wants Mrs. Moore and R.S. to come live with him and that
he loves R.S. like his own son. He stated that they play
sports together and do "just what I consider a dad and a
son would do together." Mr. Moore stated he would be
willing to adopt R.S. "in a heartbeat, " but
clarified he was not trying to replace his natural father. He
thought it was important for R.S. and Mr. Singleton to have a
Moore acknowledged that, at times, Mrs. Moore had followed a
two-week custody rotation with Mr. Singleton and that she
encouraged R.S. to have a relationship with his father. He
stated that once they learned of Mr. Singleton's arrests
and warrants, they decided to go by the custody judgment. Mr.
Moore stated, however, that he did not have any concerns with
R.S. spending time with Mr. Singleton "in his current
situation with Cristen around."
Moore stated that he and Mrs. Moore had studied the school
zones and crime rates to determine where to live in Texas.
Their home is adjacent to a golf club and a yacht club. There
is also an elementary school close to the neighborhood. The
community is not gated, but there is a sheriff patrol that is
dedicated to the neighborhood. Mr. Moore testified that there
are plenty of sports opportunities for children in the area,
including at least 5 different travelling baseball teams.
Moore testified that Mrs. Moore was pregnant and due to have
their child at the end of August. He stated that if Mrs.
Moore moved to Montgomery with R.S., there would be no need
for her to work outside the home, but she could if she wanted
He also stated he would be willing to help R.S. with any
schoolwork and indicated he held a B.S. in Civil Engineering.
Moore recalled one altercation with Mr. Singleton two weeks
prior to the hearing where Mr. Singleton yelled and cursed at
him and Mrs. Moore. He testified that Mr. Singleton was the
aggressor and was threatening to use physical violence when
they were walking in the parking lot at the baseball park. He
believed that Mr. Singleton was mad because he and Mrs. Moore
were taking R.S. back to Mrs. Moore's home.
cross-examination, Mr. Moore testified that no one told him
he would have been terminated from HGA if he did not take the
new job, but he "read between the lines" and
understood that he would not have a job if he did not take
the offer. He conceded that he did not look for a new job in
Ouachita Parish because he did not think he would make as
much money. He stated that they sold the house in Monroe
because they could not afford to pay two house notes. He
admitted to selling the house before the issue of relocation
was settled, but stated they did not know it would sell so
fast. He acknowledged that he and Mrs. Moore could have
potentially kept the house in West Monroe until they found
out whether R.S. would be allowed to relocate.
resumed with the cross-examination of Mr. Moore on June 7,
2016. Mr. Moore conceded that all of R.S.'s family,
friends, and teammates live in the Monroe area, but he stated
that R.S. had met and begun to make friends with the
neighbors in Montgomery. He also acknowledged that all of
R.S.'s medical care and history was in the Monroe area.
Mr. Moore agreed that R.S. is close to, loves, and usually
enjoys spending time with his father.
Moore stated that it would be possible for him to come back
to Monroe from Montgomery almost every weekend to visit Mrs.
Moore and R.S. However, he stated it would partially be in
the best interest of R.S. to be relocated to Montgomery
because it would financially be better for him and Mrs.
Moore, and it would provide R.S. with the benefits of a
redirect, Mr. Moore noted that although he had not been
employed in Monroe, neither had Mr. Singleton. He pointed out
that Mr. Singleton's previous employers were out of
Texas, Oklahoma, and Utah. He also pointed out that Mr.
Singleton's involvement with R.S. had increased
significantly after the filing of the motion to relocate.
take the stand was Kimberly Hope Barker ("Mrs.
Barker"), Mrs. Moore's mother. She testified that
Mrs. Moore and R.S. had been living with her since August of
2015. She stated she has always had a close relationship with
her daughter and R.S. She almost always attends R.S.'s
school events, but can only remember Mr. Singleton ever
having attended one.
Barker recalled multiple occasions where Mr. Singleton yelled
at her, R.S., or Mrs. Moore. She corroborated May's
testimony regarding the incident at R.S.'s basketball
game, but further stated Mr. Singleton laid his hands on R.S.
in a violent manner at the game along with slapping aside her
arm and threatening her husband when he told Mr. Singleton
not to lay his hands on them. Mrs. Barker also corroborated
Mr. Moore's testimony regarding the incident at the
Barker noted that Mrs. Moore was often open and receptive to
any request Mr. Singleton made for more time with R.S., and
she never spoke ill of Mr. Singleton to R.S. She stated that
R.S. was sometimes disrespectful to Mr. Moore, but Mr. Moore
never raised his voice to R.S. Mrs. Barker believed it would
be positive if the Moores and R.S. could all live together as
cross-examination, Mrs. Barker conceded that R.S. has spent
his entire life in Ouachita Parish. She acknowledged that
R.S. did not have any family in Houston and that he had no
friends there at the moment. She also acknowledged that she
and her husband would not be able to be as involved as they
were at the time in R.S.'s life, but she still thought
that moving to Houston would be the best for her daughter and
R.S. She stated that having Mrs. Moore and R.S. live with her
was not ideal, but she would not kick them out.
Barker agreed R.S. loves his father. She acknowledged R.S.
does not want to move to Montgomery, and the proposition of
moving made him upset. She noted Mr. Singleton had been more
engaged in R.S.'s life since the relocation issue arose.
Mrs. Barker stated she was ...