DANIEL J. LIGHTELL
TAMMY E. LIGHTELL
APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 753-065, DIVISION
"B" HONORABLE CORNELIUS E. REGAN, JUDGE PRESIDING
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, DANIEL J. LIGHTELL STEPHEN R.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, TAMMY E. LIGHTELL RENEE L.
composed of Judges Susan M. Chehardy, Robert A. Chaisson, and
Hans J. Liljeberg
J. LILJEBERG, JUDGE
defendant, Tammy Lightell, seeks review of the trial
court's judgment finding she was not free from fault in
the dissolution of her marriage to plaintiff, Daniel
Lightell, and thus precluded from receiving final spousal
support. The trial court made a factual finding based on its
resolution of the parties' conflicting testimony. Because
the trial court's factual finding was not manifestly
erroneous, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
parties married on April 30, 1982, and have four children who
are all of the age of majority. On August 31, 2015, Mr.
Lightell filed a petition seeking a divorce pursuant to La.
C.C. art. 102 after the parties lived separate and apart for
a period in excess of 180 days without reconciliation. In
response, Ms. Lightell filed an answer and reconventional
demand alleging she was free from fault in the termination of
the marriage and entitled to interim and final spousal
support. The parties appeared before a hearing officer on
October 13, 2015, and he recommended that Mr. Lightell pay
Ms. Lightell $4, 623.00 per month in interim spousal support
effective on October 15, 2015. Mr. Lightell filed an
objection to the hearing officer's recommendation and on
January 26, 2016, the parties entered into a consent judgment
awarding Ms. Lightell $5, 000.00 per month for interim
spousal support. On February 26, 2016, Mr. Lightell filed a
motion to determine fault and a rule to terminate spousal
support. The trial court entered a final judgment of divorce
on September 8, 2016.
February 21, 2017, the parties appeared for a hearing on the
rule to determine fault. At the conclusion of the hearing,
the trial court took the matter under advisement. On March 7,
2017, the trial court rendered a judgment finding Ms.
Lightell was not free from fault. On March 15, 2017, Ms.
Lightell requested written reasons for judgment. However, the
record does not contain a response from the trial court. On
March 17, 2017, Ms. Lightell filed a timely motion and order
for appeal, which the trial court granted on March 21, 2017.
hearing on the issue of fault, Ms. Lightell testified that
she learned of Mr. Lightell's decision to file for
divorce when she went to the bank on August 31, 2015, and
discovered their checking account was empty. Ms. Lightell
called Mr. Lightell from the bank, and he told her he was
leaving her because he was unhappy. At that time, Mr.
Lightell was living with friends, but still had some of his
possessions at their home.
the marriage, Ms. Lightell worked various jobs and obtained a
college degree. After graduating, she worked as a teacher
from 1996 until 2007, when she quit working due to health
problems. Ms. Lightell testified that Mr. Lightell was not
happy that she worked as a teacher because he believed she
could earn much more with a college degree. On December 26,
2007, the Louisiana State Medical Disability Board approved
Ms. Lightell's application for disability retirement. She
explained that at that time, she was experiencing partial
renal failure and her doctors told her she had to stop
working. According to Ms. Lightell, at the time she stopped
working, she was earning $2, 000.00 every two weeks after
deductions and Mr. Lightell was earning $160, 000.00 per
year. She also provided medical insurance for the family. Ms.
Lightell testified that at the time of the hearing she
received $800.00 per month in disability retirement pay, less
deductions for health insurance.
Lightell did not introduce any medical records into evidence,
but explained that she has a heart problem, a VP shunt for
brain swelling and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in
June 2015. Ms. Lightell explained that she was diagnosed with
the brain swelling in 1996, following a car accident. She
stated that she suffers from "Arnold Chiari
Syndrome" and had three brain surgeries in 1996, 1999
and 2003. She has a "VP shunt" which drains
cerebral spinal fluid on a daily basis. She testified that
she went back to work as a teacher within six weeks after
each brain surgery. She claimed her doctors told her she
should not go back to work, but she felt that she had to
because they had four children to support. She also claimed
that she was able to be intimate with her husband on a
regular basis despite her health problems.
Lightell also experiences problems with her thyroid as a
result of suffering from pituitary macroadenoma. Due to this
condition, her pituitary gland was removed and she sees an
endocrinologist on a monthly basis because her
"adrenals" are affected due to the removal of the
gland. She explained that this affects her hormones and as a
result, her everyday life. Ms. Lightell was also born with a
medullary sponge kidney which causes her to develop kidney
stones. She also sees an oncologist because she had basal
cell carcinoma in her inner right ear, which affected her jaw
and required her to have a metal piece placed in her jaw in
order to open and close her mouth. Ms. Lightell testified
that she also had surgeries on her shoulders and has
herniated discs. She explained that her doctors treat her
back issues with epidural steroid injections.
2015, Ms. Lightell was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
She testified that the medication she takes for this
condition, methotrexate, makes her feel ill. Also, just ten
days prior to the fault hearing, Ms. Lightell had a pacemaker
installed due to heart problems. In the year after the
parties' separation, her heart problems caused her to
suffer from syncope, which is the loss of consciousness due
to a drop in blood pressure. Ms. Lightell sees seven doctors
on a regular basis and explained that she usually sees two to
three doctors per month. She testified that despite her
health problems, she worked until 2007, cooked, cleaned and
took care of ...