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LeBlanc v. Welch

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

March 21, 2018

HANNAH LEBLANC
v.
CODY WELCH

          APPEAL FROM THE THIRTY-THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF ALLEN, NO. C-2017-091 HONORABLE JOEL G. DAVIS, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Cody Welch COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Hannah LeBlanc COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Court composed of Marc T. Amy, Shannon J. Gremillion, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.

          MARC T. AMY JUDGE

         This case is a custody dispute concerning the parties' minor child. The trial court awarded joint custody with a shared physical custody arrangement. The mother now appeals. For the following reasons, we affirm and remand with instructions.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Hannah LeBlanc and Cody Welch were married in Allen Parish. Together they are the mother and father, respectively, of one minor child, who was born on October 5, 2011. On March 14, 2017, Ms. LeBlanc filed a Petition for 102 Divorce and Determination of Incidental Matters. In the petition, Ms. LeBlanc alleged that it is in the best interest of the child for the parties to be awarded joint custody, with Ms. LeBlanc being designated as the domiciliary parent and Mr. Welch having set visitation privileges. In his answer, Mr. Welch asserted a reconventional demand in which he alleged that there should be shared physical custody of the child and that the parties should be granted possession of the child for alternating three-day periods.

         At a hearing, various members of the child's family testified about the child's history and the parents' schedules relating to the child. The mother testified that she takes the child to school at about 7:15 a.m. on her way to work. She explained that after school, the child rides the school bus to the maternal grandmother's home until the mother returns from work at about 5:30 - 6:00 p.m. The maternal grandmother testified that on Wednesday afternoons, she takes the child to dance lessons, while the mother takes the child to church activities on Wednesday evenings. The mother explained that she takes the child to church services on Sunday.

         The mother also explained that she has another child from a previous relationship. The record indicates that the child and the maternal half-sibling have lived together since the child's birth with the exception that the half-sibling has visitation with her biological father every other weekend. The mother explained that the child and the half-sibling are "[v]ery" close to each other.

         The father testified that he typically leaves for work at 5:00 a.m. and does not return until about 6:00 p.m. He explained that the child's paternal grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother will assist him in caring for the child when he is at work. The paternal grandmother testified that, if the father receives custody during the school week, she is willing and able to come to the father's home at 5:00 a.m. so that the child will not have to be awakened when the father leaves for work. Additionally, the paternal grandmother and the paternal aunt stated that they are willing and able to watch the child after school, as well as to assist the father generally.

         Following the hearing, the trial court issued a "Judgment on Rule for Custody and Determination of Incidental Matters." In the judgment, the trial court awarded joint custody of the child with shared physical visitation according to the following custody/visitation schedule:

         1. Standard Visitation:

During the school year: Father shall have the child every other Wednesday after school until Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.; Mother shall have the child every other Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. until Thursday morning when she drops the child off at school; Father shall have the child every other Thursday after school until Monday morning when he returns her to school; and Mother shall have the child every other Monday after school until Wednesday morning when she drops the child off at school.

         2. Summer Visitation:

During the summer months of June and July, the parties shall maintain the standard visitation rotation unless they agree to change possession of the child to alternating weeks from Tuesday to Tuesday.

         Additionally, the trial court ordered that the parties alternate holidays according to the court's holiday visitation schedule. The trial court neither designated a domiciliary parent in the judgment nor allocated legal authority and responsibility for the child in a joint custody implementation order.

On appeal, Ms. LeBlanc asserts the following assignments of error:
1. The trial court disregarded the feasibility of the shared physical custody arrangement in contravention of La. R.S. 9:335(A)(2)(b).
2.The trial court committed manifest error and abused its discretion by awarding shared physical custody without considering the factors enunciated in La. C.C. art. 134. Specifically:
a. the spiritual guidance of the child,
b. permanence of a family unit by separating [the] minor child with her sibling,
c. the history of the child,
d. willingness and ability of each party to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship with the ...

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