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State, Department of Children and Family Services ex rel. E. R. v. Redmann

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

October 25, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF E. R. AND O. R.
v.
KIRK REDMANN

         ON APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 06-NS-49, DIVISION "C" HONORABLE BARRON C. BURMASTER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF E. R. AND O. R. Paul D. Connick, Jr. Michael L. Ballero Timothy P. O'Rourke.

          COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, KIRK REDMANN Michael A. Rosenblatt.

          Panel composed of Judges Jude G. Gravois, Marc E. Johnson, and Robert A. Chaisson.

          MARC E. JOHNSON JUDGE.

         This is a child support case in which Defendant appeals the juvenile court's judgment finding that he owes $845.00 for child support expenses. In the judgment, the juvenile court granted Defendant a temporary reduction of his monthly child support obligations, but concluded he owed $1, 345.00 for his proportionate share of extraordinary expenses minus a $250.00 credit for each of the two minor children. The juvenile court further determined that Defendant is not owed any reimbursement for any of the health insurance premiums he paid. For the following reasons, we vacate the juvenile court's judgment and remand the matter for a new hearing.

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         According to the record before us, the State of Louisiana Department of Social Services through the District Attorney for the Parish of Jefferson ("State") began providing support enforcement services to Helen Redmann on January 11, 2006. As such, all child support issues between Helen Redmann and Kirk Redmann were transferred from the 24th Judicial District Court to Juvenile Court for the Parish of Jefferson.

         This appeal arises from Kirk's motion for reduction of child support and for future credit for amounts owed, which he filed in proper person on April 1, 2015. In his motion, he sought a reduction in the amount of monthly child support he owed for his two minor children on the basis he had been unemployed since January 31, 2015. He also sought a credit for Helen's proportionate share of health insurance premiums for the children that she allegedly had not paid. Kirk maintained that he had paid the totality of health insurance premiums for the children from September 2007 through March 2015 in the amount of $19, 927, despite a court order dated December 16, 2002 in which Helen was ordered to pay 46% of the premiums.

         A hearing on the motion was held on July 9, 2015 before the hearing officer. The hearing officer recommended that Kirk's motion to reduce child support be granted and that his child support obligation be reduced on an interim basis from $786 per month[1] to $265.65 per month, retroactive to the filing date of April 1, 2015 once a permanent order was entered. The hearing officer also recommended that each parent be responsible for his or her percentage share of extraordinary medical expenses.[2] The hearing officer did not address the issue of credits and instructed the parties to meet with the State to review the receipts submitted by each as they related to requested credits. Helen disagreed with the recommendation, specifically the interim reduction of child support, and a disagreement hearing before the juvenile court judge was set.

         The parties appeared in proper person before Judge Barron Burmaster on August 10, 2015 for a disagreement hearing. Among the issues was who owed whom what in terms of extraordinary medical expenses, school expenses, and other expenses incurred on behalf of the children over the past seven or eight years. Specifically, Kirk claimed Helen owed him over $9, 000 for her proportionate share of health insurance premiums that he had paid for the children since 2007, and Helen claimed Kirk owed her approximately $9, 000 for his proportionate share of other expenses she had paid on behalf of the children. Helen admitted that she had not paid Kirk her 46% proportionate share of health insurance, but stated that she instead paid all the additional necessary expenses for the children which she indicated she documented by her canceled checks. Kirk challenged Helen's claimed expenses on the basis that either she had already been reimbursed for the expenses, the expenses were ones covered by the basic monthly child support, or the expenses were not owed as child support.

         During the hearing, Helen requested a continuance so she could retain counsel. The trial judge granted Helen's requested continuance and set the interim child support owed by Kirk at $400 per month, as opposed to his prior obligation of $786 or the hearing officer's recommendation of $265.65.

         The parties again appeared in court on October 19, 2015 for the continuation of the disagreement hearing. Both parties again appeared in proper person, at which time Helen advised the court that she opted not to obtain counsel because of the cost. The parties discussed the documentation, namely spreadsheets, and lack of documentation provided by each to support his or her position and to controvert that of the opposing party. The trial judge noted that at that juncture, the only way for him to figure it all out was to bring in a forensic accountant, which he warned was very expensive. In an effort to avoid the expense of a forensic accountant, the trial judge instructed Helen to provide Kirk with "all her tax returns and everything, " including an itemized list of what she claims Kirk owes her. He also instructed Kirk to show the court what he has paid. Kirk again voiced his objection that some things included on Helen's spreadsheet were non-covered expenses and, therefore, not reimbursable.

         The court again continued the hearing on the issue of credits pending further documentation by the parties relating to expenses incurred and paid. The court ordered Kirk to continue ...


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