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Cahill v. Cahill

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 6, 2017

WILLIAM PRESTON CAHILL, JR.
v.
ARMAND ALICE UNKAUF CAHILL

         In Re: Willia P. Cahill, Jr., applying for supervisory writs, 22nd Judicial District Court, Parish of St. Tammany, No. 2008-11371.

          BEFORE: WHIPPLE, C.J., McDONALD AND CHUTZ, JJ.

         WRIT GRANTED IN PART, DENIED IN PART. The trial court's October 5, 2017 judgment which found William Cahill, Jr. in contempt of court and denied the motion which sought to find Armand Cahill in contempt of court is reversed as to these rulings. In the case of a criminal contempt, if the facts which constitute the contemptuous conduct are proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then the trial court has great discretion in determining whether to impose a judgment of contempt based upon its factual determinations. With regard to the sufficiency of the trial court's factual findings, the standard of review for a criminal contempt is whether, after reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the mover, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt. Rogers v. Dickens, 2006-0898 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2/9/07), 959 So.2d 940, 945.

         In order to constitute willful disobedience necessary for criminal contempt, the act or refusal to act must be done with an intent to defy the authority of the court. Billiot v. Billiot, 2001-1298 (La. 1/25/02), 805 So.2d 1170, 1174. The trial court found William Cahill, Jr. in contempt of court for several alleged violations of the consent judgment signed on February 10, 2017. This court finds that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the mover, Armand Cahill, did not prove the essential elements of the criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court found that William Cahill, Jr. failed to comply with the visitation schedule set forth in favor of Armand Cahill. However, Patricia Percy, the court appointed Parenting Coordinator, testified that she suspended the visitation after January 25, 2017 and never reached the point of resuming the visitation. The trial court also found that William Cahill, Jr. did not make a proactive effort to provide Armand Cahill with information about the minor children's activities. Although admittedly, William Cahill, Jr. did not comply with the specific requirements of the judgment in this regard, he believed Armand Cahill had the information, either from the pertinent websites and/or from the schedules provided to her by the minor children, and therefore, such omissions did not constitute the willful disobedience necessary for a finding of contempt. The trial court also found that William Cahill, Jr. discussed the proposed relocation to Florida with the minor children prior to notifying Armand Cahill.

          Although the judgment prohibited the parties from discussing the court case when the minor children are present, in this case involving teenage children and possible relocation, William Cahill, Jr. testified he discussed it with them so as not to "spring" it on them. It could be questionable whether this was a direct violation of the judgment, but also appears not to rise to the level of a contemptable offense. The trial court also found that William Cahill, Jr. failed to timely provide Patricia Percy with a list of therapists covered by his insurance. Although Ms. Percy received the first list one day late and it contained providers who were not covered by the insurance, William Cahill, Jr. testified that he obtained the list from his insurer's website, and Ms. Percy acknowledged that she was not suggesting he purposefully sent an outdated list and further testified that providers, particularly in the specialty of psychiatry, change often. This did not constitute the willful disobedience necessary for a finding of contempt. The trial court also found that William Cahill, Jr. did not pay the child support arrearages or attorney's fees mandated by the consent judgment. Although William Cahill, Jr. admitted that he only paid $1, 000, he also testified that Armand Castille owed him child support of $917 per month, which she had not paid. Although the trial court found that this award was merely a temporary order and was not reduced to judgment, as found herein, there was an order issued by the trial court making this a temporary order of the court pending further proceedings, and as such, it was enforceable, and could act as an offset between the parties. See Appendix 32.0B(F)(6) of the Uniform Rules of the Louisiana District Courts for the 22nd Judicial District Court. The trial court also found that William Cahill, Jr. generally refused to comply with Ms. Percy's recommendations and threatened to make complaints to her professional licensing board. However, this is not a violation of the consent judgment, and Ms. Percy acknowledged that William Cahill, Jr. followed the procedure set forth in the Parenting Coordinator agreement for making complaints. Thus, the trial court's judgment which found William Cahill, Jr. in contempt of court and imposed punishment, including a jail term and payment of attorney's fees and costs, is reversed.

         The trial court's October 5, 2017 judgment which denied the motion for contempt of court filed by William Cahill, Jr. against Armand Cahill is reversed. The basis of the denial by the trial court was its reasoning that the order requiring Armand Cahill to pay child support in the amount of $917 per month to William Cahill, Jr. was never reduced to a judgment and was only a temporary order of the hearing officer. However, an order was signed by the trial court which ordered that the recommendations of the hearing officer for the child support award constituted temporary orders of the court pending further proceedings. La. Code Civ. P. art. 224 provides for contempt when a person violates an order of a court. Such temporary orders have been held sufficient to support a contempt finding. See Ackel v. Ackel, 2006-646 (La, . App. 5th Cir. 1/16/07), 951 So.2d 403; LeBlanc v. LeBlanc, 2006-1307 (La.App. 3d Cir. 3/7/07), 953 So.2d 115. William Cahill, Jr. testified that Armand Cahill has not paid any of the child support pursuant to this order, and Armand Cahill failed to produce any evidence in explanation of such failure. Therefore, the motion for contempt of court filed by William Cahill, Jr. is granted, and Armand Cahill is found in contempt of court for failure to pay the child support in the amount of $917 per month beginning on October 22, 2015. This matter is remanded to the trial court for imposition of punishment for such contempt of court.

         This writ application is denied in all other respects.

         JMM

         WRC

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