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State, Department of Social Services v. Haines

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit

December 13, 2017

STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES IN THE INTEREST OF L. R.
v.
CHRISTOPHER HAINES

         ON APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON PARISH JUVENILE COURT PARISH OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 09-NS-1077, DIVISION "A" HONORABLE ANN MURRY KELLER, JUDGE PRESIDING

          COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE, STATE OF LOUISIANA, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES PAUL D. CONNICK, JR., AMANDA L. CALOGERO, CHARLES E. TONEY, JR, TIMOTHY P. O'ROURKE

          DEFENDANT/APPELLANT, CHRISTOPHER HAINES, CHRISTOPHER HAINES, IN PROPER PERSON

          Panel composed of Judges Marc E. Johnson, Robert M. Murphy, and Hans J. Liljeberg

          MARC E. JOHNSON, JUDGE

         Defendant appeals the juvenile court's judgment modifying his child support obligation, specifically increasing the amount from $275/month to $597/month inclusive of private school tuition, and ordering it retroactive to the date of judicial demand. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and amend in part.

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This matter began by a petition to prove paternity and obtain child support filed in 2009 by the State of Louisiana, Department of Social Services (now the Department of Children and Family Services), in the Interest of L.R. against Defendant, Christopher Haines. Defendant subsequently acknowledged the minor child as his biological child, and child support was set in September 2010 after a hearing. Defendant appealed the judgment setting child support and assessing arrearages. On appeal, this Court vacated the September 2010 judgment on the basis the record was devoid of any evidence to allow a review, and we remanded the matter for further proceedings. State Department of Children & Family Services ex rel. L.R. v. Haines, 11-84 (La.App. 5 Cir. 5/6/11); 67 So.3d 515.

         On remand, the parties reached an agreement regarding child support, and the agreement was made the judgment of the court on December 5, 2011. Specifically, the recipient agreed to a reduced child support amount of $275/month plus 5% court costs for a total of $288.75/month, with the obligation having prospective application only; thus, Defendant owed no arrearages.

         Approximately five years later, on September 9, 2016, the State filed a motion to modify support on the basis it had been more than three years since support was set. The matter was heard by a hearing officer on November 29, 2016, who made certain recommendations - specifically that child support be increased to $801/month plus 5% court costs for a total of $841.05/month - with which Defendant disagreed.[1] As a result, a disagreement hearing was set before the juvenile court judge for March 6, 2017.

         At the disagreement hearing, the State indicated that the increase of child support recommended by the hearing officer was based on a determination of Defendant's income from the Louisiana Occupational Wage Survey for a roofer because Defendant did not provide the requested information regarding his income. The State advised the juvenile court that Defendant, on the day of the disagreement hearing, provided his 2015 tax returns with rental income information and check stubs from a new job that he started on December 30, 2016.[2] Based on this new information, the State argued that Defendant's child support obligation was $697/month, inclusive of his proportionate share of private school tuition.[3]

         After hearing testimony and considering various documents submitted, the juvenile court agreed with the State's calculation and set Defendant's child support obligation at $697/month, inclusive of private school tuition. The court gave Defendant a $100/month second family credit based on the fact Defendant's oldest daughter from a previous relationship lived with him, resulting in a total obligation of $597/month plus 5% court costs for a total of $626.85/month. The court ordered the child support retroactive to the filing date of September 9, 2016. It is from this March 6, 2017 judgment that Defendant now appeals.

         ISSUES

         Defendant raises three issues on appeal. First, he argues the trial court erred in calculating the amount of his rental income for purposes of determining his adjusted monthly gross income. Second, he maintains the trial court erred in including private school tuition in the basic child support obligation. And, third, Defendant avers the trial court erred in ordering the child support obligation retroactive to the filing date of September 9, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard ...


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